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Damaged containers being painstakingly unloaded from Zim Kingston at Duke Point

Ship lost part of load in rough seas off Island's west coast, then caught fire in waters near Victoria

A methodical operation is underway at Nanaimo’s Duke Point as damaged containers are unloaded from the Zim Kingston container ship and their contents inspected.

So far, about 11 containers have been lifted from the 260-metre-long vessel, which sat for weeks off Victoria after losing part of its load in heavy seas, and then enduring a fire that damaged some containers. A total of 58 containers are scheduled to be removed from the vessel at Duke Point.

Martin Leduc, a marine engineer who runs a related web page and has been watching the procedure, said once a container is offloaded, it takes about an hour to 90 minutes for it to be processed on the ground. “In my opinion, they look very well-organized,” he said Tuesday.

The huge container ship arrived at a 170-metre-long berth — secured with mooring dolphins at either end — at Duke Point on Dec. 11, where DP World, a Dubai-based cargo-logistics company, holds a 50-year lease.

Of the 109 containers the ship lost off the west coast of Vancouver Island when it listed in heavy seas, just four were recovered. A fire subsequently broke out among some of the remaining containers while the vessel sat at Constance Bank, off Victoria. After 40 days, a flotilla of support ships escorted the container ship to Nanaimo.

An environmental management company, a salvage company, the ship’s owner, Transport Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard, Canada Border Services Agency, Environment Canada, the Transportation Safety Board and the Port of Nanaimo all agreed on a plan for how to offload the damaged containers.

The border services agency is on hand to perform security sweeps and clear the containers for entry into Canada.

The mooring system for the Zim Kingston is more stringent than normal, said Capt. Satinder Singh, vice-president of marine operations and harbour master for the Port of Nanaimo.

Before a container is lifted to shore, it is examined and re-sealed, then secured using equipment such as lashing, straps, ropes and straps. When a crane lifts the container, it is held above the deck briefly to ensure it is safe to move to shore, Singh said.

In case of accidents, an environmental response vessel is available and the dynamic beast heavy-lift crane is on the water side of the container ship.

Duke Point’s Liebherr 500 mobile harbour crane, at 104 tonnes with a 51-metre outreach, is lifting the containers.

Containers are taken to a triage location where an environmental response team determines where the contents should go, said Singh, who said it’s his understanding that ­nothing is going to the local landfill.

The offloading of the damaged containers is expected to take a couple of weeks at least, he said.

It hasn’t been announced where the Zim Kingston will go next to offload its remaining 1,000-plus containers, but it had originally been headed for Vancouver.

The sailing time between Nanaimo and Vancouver is about three hours, Singh said.

Ports along the west coast of North America have been backed up as large cargo ships wait their turn to bring in goods for offloading.

Duke Point is poised for expansion thanks to $100 million in public and private funding to upgrade the terminal in the next two years to take larger vessels, Singh said.

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