'Fridges, rain boots, shoes, toys': B.C. coast littered with debris from stricken cargo ship
At least four shipping containers that were lost from a stricken cargo ship off the B.C. coast have come ashore on Vancouver Island, the Canadian Coast Guard confirmed Thursday.
The containers have spilled refrigerators, toys, yoga mats and clothing onto remote beaches near Cape Scott Provincial Park on the northernmost tip of the island.
A school group from Port Hardy, B.C., got a firsthand look at debris from some of the 109 lost containers Wednesday.
The students from the Eke Me-Xi Learning Centre were on a weekly field trip to Palmerston Beach, just south of Cape Scott, where they typically learn about protecting the natural environment.
This week, what they saw was a beach littered with household appliances, toys and board games, all of it cargo from the Zim Kingston container ship currently anchored off Victoria.
Educator Jerika McArter posted photos to Facebook of some of the items the school group found.
"There is stuff everywhere: fridges, rain boots, shoes, toys, Chinese checkers boards, baby oil, food packs, hair wax, Styrofoam, backpacks and more," McArter wrote.
"This is only one of the containers and the pictures don’t show how bad/sad it is," she added.
The coast guard confirmed Thursday that the debris is from at least one of the containers that were lost in rough seas Friday.
Coast guard spokesperson Michelle Imbeau said anyone who discovers cargo on the beach should report it immediately to the coast guard.
Imbeau said yoga mats, clothing, children's toys and games will be among the debris likely to drift ashore in the coming days.
The vessel's owner, Danaos Shipping Co., has said it is working with a salvage contractor to develop a plan to locate and retrieve the lost containers.
On Thursday afternoon, the coast guard said Danaos was preparing to recover four containers that were found near Cape Scott.
The coast guard added that Danaos is working with an environmental company on the operation.
Imbeau said the contract for the retrieval is likely to include cleaning up any debris that comes ashore.
In a subsequent update late Thursday, the coast guard said it was satisfied with the salvage work conducted so far.
"Under the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act (WAHVA) the owner of the M/V Zim Kingston is responsible for mitigating any hazards regarding the ship or its cargo," the coast guard said.
"To date, Unified Command is satisfied with the actions taken by the owner both at the ship itself, and in efforts to recover the containers and debris," said the statement added.
The unified command includes representatives from the coast guard, the B.C. Environment Ministry, the vessel's owners, the Beecher Bay First Nation and the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council.
"Right now the contractor and Unified Command have positively identified the four containers found at Cape Scott by cross-referencing the ship’s manifest, and have confirmed they are not considered dangerous goods," the coast guard said.
Coast guard helicopters, along with aircraft from Transport Canada's National Aerial Surveillance Program were searching for more of the missing containers Thursday.
"The location is remote and rugged, and planning for recovery operations is underway," the coast guard said. "The overall number of missing containers is now up to 109 and it may change again as more information comes in."
The coast guard's current models suggest the containers will continue to drift northward.
One of the lost shipping containers that came ashore near Cape Scott Provincial Park. (Canadian Coast Guard)
Coast guard vessels remain in the vicinity of the Zim Kingston, anchored on Constance Bank near Victoria.
The agency says it is prepared to assist with "emergency tow and firefighting capacity if needed," as firefighters continue to tackle hotspots in the vessel's cargo.
A salvage team aboard the Zim Kingston has been using thermal cameras to monitor for flare-ups.
Current efforts are focused on stack No. 14 of the ship, where containers that were loaded with tires "continue to be an issue," the coast guard says.
The agency is still monitoring air quality along B.C.'s coast. So far, no health risks have been detected, officials said.
"A total of 106 air samples were taken along the Greater Victoria waterfront over the past 24 hours and show no negative impacts from the ship," the coast guard said.
Once recovery and firefighting efforts are complete, the Transportation Safety Board may launch a further investigation into the incident.
"Right now, the highest priority continues to be putting the fires out and ensuring the remaining containers are secure before the ship is moved to port for unloading," said the unfied command.