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Vancouver Island MPs want immediate federal oversight in container ship clean-up

More than 100 containers went overboard from the MV Zim Kingston near Victoria last week
Ships continue to work to control a fire onboard the MV Zim Kingston about eight kilometres from the shore in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, October 25, 2021. A special weather statement was issued for the Greater Victoria area as southeasterly winds gusting up to 90km per hour were forecasted. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Vancouver Islanders are at the forefront of a group of NDP MPs demanding the new Minister for Fisheries, Oceans take immediate action to address the cargo spilled from the MV Zim Kingston off the Vancouver Island coast.

A joint letter to Joyce Murray and the Canadian Coast Guard asks the ministry to engage local groups familiar with the area to help coordinate shoreline cleanups, and to ensure that the debris salvaged does not “become a strain on local community landfills.”

The letter was signed by Island MPs Lisa Marie Barron, Laurel Collins, Gord Johns, Randall Garrison, Rachel Blaney and Alistair MacGregor, as well as NDP Transport Critic Taylor Bachrach. It acknowledges that while the MV Zim Kingston owner has hired a salvage firm, the “firm contracted had little understanding of the geography of the area, nor any experience of the local realities which affect the coordination of shoreline cleanup, which has led to unacceptable delays in mobilising ground crews to remediate the damage being done by the grounded containers.”

RELATED: Drifting shipping containers leave Vancouver Island communities with many questions

“We have a very narrow window to take effective action to contain the items which are already onshore. The federal government must urgently use all of the tools at their disposal to mitigate this disaster,” said Collins. “The Liberal government needs to work with coastal communities, non-profit groups and local First Nations immediately to have a coordinated approach to this urgent matter.”

The MPs further ask that the government provides oversight to ensure the company is responsible for each container that fell overboard, and that a tactical response team and plan are set up to reduce impacts from this kind of accident.

“The urgent priority in the short-term is making sure the federal government and the company fully clean up the current spill. Longer term, we need to look at the regulations under which these ships operate to ensure Canada is doing everything it can to protect our coastal environment from these kinds of incidents,” said Bachrach.

The MV Zim Kingston encountered rough seas on Oct. 22, causing 109 shipping containers to fall off the vessel. A container fire broke out the next day on the vessel while it was anchored near Victoria. A hazardous chemical used in the mining industry, potassium amylxanthate, was stored in two of the containers that had caught fire, and in two containers that had gone overboard.

“The spill… will no doubt have extreme implications on our local marine life and the health of the ocean,” said Barron. “We are urging the federal government to do all they can to prevent even more damage being done to our coast and ocean. We are also offering our local knowledge and connections with our coastal communities and environmental organizations to address this crisis in a timely, and well-thought-out manner.”

RELATED: Refrigerators, styrofoam, garbage on B.C. beaches after containers spilled from ship

Contractor hired to recover overboard containers floating off Vancouver Island

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Marc Kitteringham

About the Author: Marc Kitteringham

I joined Black press in early 2020, writing about the environment, housing, local government and more.
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