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Cargo ship loses 40 containers overboard, catches fire off coast of Canada

High waves apparently caused some of its load to shift, which sent the containers into the sea.

VICTORIA, BC — A ship roughly five miles off the coast of Victoria, British Columbia, lost 40 containers overboard Friday in rough weather, then some of the remaining containers caught fire. At least one container contained a dangerous chemical used in the mining industry.

The ship, called the Zim Kingston, has a manifest that is 1,800 pages long, according to the Canadian Coast Guard, so it is difficult to know exactly what was in the containers that were lost.

The Coast Guard said the overboard containers are floating north, parallel to Vancouver Island. High waves apparently caused some of its load to shift, which sent the containers into the sea.

Mariah McCooey, the deputy federal incident commander with the Canadian Coast Guard, flew over the ship before briefing reporters Monday afternoon.

“This continues to be a very dangerous and difficult situation. The coast guard is working closely with a number of partners,” she said.

McCooey said the ship does not appear to be in danger of breaking up and is at anchor. Other government officials said the risk to marine life is low and that air monitors did not pick up hazardous chemicals on shore. The crew is reported safe.

Huge container ships like this are efficient but can run into trouble in very rough water. Columbia River bar pilot Dan Jordan said it is not the first time something like this has happened.

“I had firsthand experience on one of my ships, something similar,” he said.

Jordan spent 24 years at sea before becoming a bar pilot. He said the bottom containers likely failed.

“That bottom container or two will have cross lashings to help support it- to keep the loads even on all the corner posts. If that bottom container gets to moving, we call it racking side to side too much — those corner posts can collapse and then the whole stack comes down,” he said.

Jordan is no stranger to the powerful storms that hit the west coast. Below is video of him getting off a ship around 3 a.m. Sunday morning, after he'd just piloted it across the Columbia bar to the ocean in 35 foot waves and winds gusting to 60 knots.

Earlier Sunday it took two attempts to land Jordan on a different ship that he guided in from the ocean over the bar.

Have a comment or story idea for reporter Pat Dooris? Email him at pdooris@kgw.com.