Container ship fire off British Columbia no longer spreading

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A container fire that broke out on Saturday on a cargo ship carrying mining chemicals off British Columbia is smoldering and appears to be under control.

Sixteen crew members were evacuated from the “Zim Kingston”, while five remained onboard to fight the fire.

Read more: Video Special: Containers overboard as huge cargo ship catches fire ‘expelling toxic gas’ off Victoria, B.C.

The ship is anchored several kilometres off the southern coast of Vancouver Island. As well as a busy shipping lane, the area is considered an extremely sensitive ecological zone and there are a number of salmon farms in the nearby San Juan Islands on the US side of the boundary. Two-thirds of the Washington state population lives in the Puget Sound region.

Map showing site of the fire marked by pink star. Marine & land-based aquaculture farms in British Columbia are marked with black dots

Residents of the island are not in danger, officials said, and transit of commercial vessels to the ports of Vancouver and Seattle ports is unimpeded.

Fire has burned itself out
According to Reuters, Canadian Coast Guard Commander JJ Brickett said the company has indicated that the fire has burned itself out. Tug boats had sprayed water around the area of the fire to keep it from spreading, and a helicopter flyover on Sunday gathered evidence that this has worked.

“We can’t see any scorching or charring of those adjacent containers, that’s a really good sign,” Brickett said. “The fire is smoldering as you would expect, and we’re continuing to cool on either side.”

The coast guard is telling all vessels to stay at least two nautical miles away, and the Transport Ministry has restricted all aircraft, including drones, from flying within two nautical miles or below 2,000 feet over the ship.

Safe return
Earlier on Sunday Danaos Shipping Co, the company that manages the container ship, said in a statement that no injuries had been reported.

The fire “appears to have been contained,” and a salvage and fire extinguishing agency was brought in to ensure the safe return of the vessel’s crew, Danaos said.

Canada’s coast guard said it has been working with its U.S. counterpart to track 40 containers that had fallen overboard when Zim Kingston encountered bad weather on Friday, saying they posed a significant risk to mariners.

The coast guard is still tracking these containers, which are to be recovered by the salvage company hired by the ship’s owners. At the moment none of them seem to be drifting toward shore, Brickett said.