SEATTLE — Maritime workers need calmer weather before they can retrieve some 35 containers that have been bobbing near the Strait of Juan de Fuca the past three days, the Canadian Coast Guard said Monday.
The containers are drifting parallel to shore, about 12 miles off the southwest coast of Vancouver Island near Tofino, B.C., based on aerial tracking.
“Current modelling indicates that the containers will not come ashore,” authorities tweeted.
Two reportedly contain toxic chemicals. However, by late afternoon the Canadian Coast Guard said it’s still working with the ship owner to identify which containers went overboard and which burned in a Saturday fire.
A gale warning remained in effect late Monday afternoon, with southwest winds at 35 to 45 mph, to slacken a bit overnight, according to Environment Canada. Swells could reach 20 feet.
Meanwhile, the Zim Kingston, which spilled those containers overboard early Friday, is anchored and smoldering five miles offshore from Victoria, B.C. There “are currently no impacts to human health” for urban residents, but plumes are being monitored, the Coast Guard says.
Waters were too choppy for a salvage team to board the boat Monday afternoon, but officials said “there may a weather window later this evening.”
Monday was the third day officials have responded to the fire, that involves hazardous material. It’s been identified as potassium amyl xanthate, a pale-yellow powder used in the mining industry. In all, 57 tons were aboard in four containers — two that dropped overboard and two that caused the onboard fire at 11 a.m. Saturday.
If released, potassium amyl xanthate “may be capable of forming flammable dust clouds in air,” says the product’s Canadian materials safety data sheet. “Contact of solid xanthate with moist air has resulted in ignition.” Exposure would irritate the eyes and throat, or in severe cases damage the liver, nerves and cardiovascular system.
The 853-foot-long ship, which left South Korea on Oct. 5, lost 40 containers in all when it listed 35 degrees in heavy swells around the strait, on the way to Vancouver, B.C. Five containers were unaccounted for Monday.
Firefighting crews have sprayed water on the deck to cool it, but avoided dousing the volatile chemical.
Canadian cutters evacuated 16 people from the ship on Saturday, while five crew members stayed aboard Sunday night.
A brick-colored liquid surrounds the ship, in a photo tweeted by the Canadian Coast Guard.
A salvage crew are on scene but unable to board the container ship due to rough weather, authorities tweeted. They mentioned that Resolve Marine, a Florida-based company with international experience salvaging capsized ships, is part of the response off Vancouver Island.