The lost cargo containers of MV Zim Kingston continue to cause great concern to Vancouver Island communities

Vancouver Island MPs and residents are raising concerns about marine conservation and spill response after debris from shipping containers lost from MV Zim Kingston appears to still be washing ashore, months after the cargo ship caught fire in stormy weather .

The ship lost 109 shipping containers, two of which contained hazardous chemicals, in heavy seas off Victoria on October 23, 2021.

“There are still a lot of shipping containers in the water,” North Island MP Rachel Blaney said Tuesday, adding that only four containers have been found so far.

“We’re not sure where they are or what’s inside them, so many constituents are very concerned and have brought this to my attention.”

Blaney shares these concerns with Transport Secretary Omar Alghabra, whose office is leading consultations to develop the federal government’s marine conservation program.

Debris created by lost containers in the incident and the like, and the resulting environmental impact on the region’s marine ecosystem and wildlife, are people’s top priorities when it comes to protecting the oceans, Blaney said.

One of the main problems is that neither communities nor MPs have details of what was lost at sea, which could create potential dangers for community groups who may be cleaning up beaches, harming wildlife or failing to hold the shipping company accountable for the cleanup .

“We need to know what was on the ship’s register and what was in the water,” Blaney said, adding that the debris will likely end up on the island’s shores for years to come.

Piles of twisted and sodden blue plastic material and twisted plastic wrap were collected during the latest cleanup at Cape Palmerston Beach in northwest Vancouver Island on February 12, said Ashley Tapp of Epic Exeo, a nonprofit coastal cleanup group.

“It’s not ordinary sea debris, but I have no confirmation as to whether or not it came from the cargo ship,” Tapp said, agreeing that community management groups only have a general idea of ​​what’s in his containers.

“And there was a lot of it,” she said.

The material was similar to that used in surgical face masks or gowns, Tapp said, adding that four large, industrial-size bags were filled with the textile and will eventually be flown off the remote beach by helicopter.

Cape Palmerston was also cleaned up in late October after the contents of one of four containers found on the island’s northwest coast were spilled on the shore.

A total of 71 refrigerators, 81 bags of Styrofoam and 11 helicopter bags of trash were flown off the beach.

The Canadian Coast Guard said it is still working with the owner of the MV Zim Kingston to investigate and respond to reports of debris from the missing containers, the federal agency said in an email Wednesday.

The Coast Guard and the ship’s owner are developing a plan to conduct a sonar scan of the area where the containers went overboard, weather permitting.

There will also be an assessment of the risk the containers may pose to the marine environment, the Coast Guard said, adding it could not share the ship’s manifest because it is owned by the shipping company.

If individuals encounter debris they believe came from the cargo ship they should call the Marine Pollution Reporting Line at 1-800-889-8852 and reports will be forwarded to the owner, the contractor tasked with conducting appropriate cleanup operations commissioned.

The shipping company is also expected to survey beaches where debris is likely to accumulate every few months, the Coast Guard said.

In her submission to the federal government, Blaney said First Nations and stewardship groups know the region best and should be the first line of defense in responding to a spill.

The same people will likely be cleaning up the shores after authorities decide an ongoing response to container pollution is no longer necessary, she said, adding that federal funds should support groups doing the work long-term.

Blaney is also backing a motion by Rep. Lisa Marie Barron, the NDP’s fisheries and marine critic, calling for the federal government to include a number of measures in a coastal countermeasures contingency plan.

A priority is to release a full report on the environmental impact of the spill and a manifest of the ship’s cargo to the public.

Blaney said her office continues to seek voter feedback on the marine conservation measures they would like to see and ensure federal government plans address those concerns.

“All ministers responsible for our coast need to hear from our communities on this,” she said.

“I intend to make sure they do.”

About Christine Geisler

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