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From sofas to car parts: 109 containers, not 40, missing from ship

Zim Kingston lost containers off west coast of Vancouver Island on Friday, caught fire on Saturday
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One of the containers from the Zim Kingston was found near Cape Scott Wednesday. The container has been identified and referenced against the ship manifest and does not contain hazardous chemicals. VIA CANADIAN COAST GUARD

Far more containers than originally believed — 109 rather than 40 — fell off the container ship Zim Kingston in heavy seas off the west coast of Vancouver Island last week, the coast guard says.

The containers carried everything from Christmas decorations to sofas, poker tables, metal car parts, clothing, toys, yoga mats, stand-up paddleboards and industrial parts.

At least three are believed to have come ashore at Cape Scott, along with some debris, said Mariah McCooey, deputy federal incident commander for the Canadian Coast Guard.

A coast guard helicopter headed to the scene to identify the containers and find out if they match the ones that went overboard from Zim Kingston, she said.

It’s expected some containers will have sunk by now, she said. “They are out there being battered in heavy seas. The watertight integrity [of containers] is not that great.”

Two of the containers that slid off the ship were carrying hazardous materials and have not been accounted for. Such containers are typically marked as dangerous goods, but it’s not known if attached placards would have remained in place after several days in the ocean, said Zachary Scher, incident commander for the Environment Ministry.

The coast guard says it’s deploying tracking buoys and working with the vessel’s owner, Greece-based Danaos Shipping, to locate and recover the containers.

The ship, anchored at Constance Bank, where it’s visible from the Dallas Road waterfront, had been carrying nearly 2,000 containers on its way to the Port of Vancouver. Of those, close to half were on the ship’s upper deck.

Zim Kingston lost its containers on Friday. On Saturday, a fire broke out on the ship. That fire is now under control and crew members were able to complete a survey of containers still on the ship.

Firefighters tackled overnight flare-ups, said Paul Barrett, planning section chief for the unified command team dealing with the situation for the coast guard.

A group of support vessels continues to be on hand, including those tasked with spraying water on the hull to keep it cool.

Once it’s deemed safe, Transport Canada officials will board Zim Kingston to inspect the ship for compliance with the Canadian Shipping Act and international conventions, Barrett said, including examining vessel records and documents and inspecting the ship.

Scher said 106 air samples were taken along the Victoria waterfront and none found any contaminants at any levels which would be a risk to public health. Monitoring is continuing.

Hazardous goods have been identified as potassium amyl xanthate used in the mining sector; the product is water-soluble and is thus not expected to be persistent in the environment, said Scher, noting any aquatic impacts would only be near the source of a discharge.

A Transport Canada aerial surveillance program plane is flying over the west coast of Vancouver Island to track containers.

Lighthouse keepers and mariners have reported sightings, but the work is complicated by poor weather and swells of 10 to 12 metres, officials said.

Anyone who finds a container is asked not to open it and to immediately call 1-800-889-8852.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has put out eight drifting trackers that transmit speed and direction to help predict the path of the containers.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com