The container ship Zim Kingston that spilled 109 boxes off the Strait of Juan de Fuca on October 22 was at sea in a storm caused directly as a result of port congestion says a new report. Using satellite AIS data, Seattle public radio station KUOW found that the Zim Kingston loitered off the strait’s entrance in gale conditions, moving at three knots on a course beam to the prevailing winds for about six hours.
While she was off the Strait, significant wave heights of about 16 to 20 feet were noted and the sustained wind speeds were in the range of 35-40 knots. The Zim Kingston began to roll through 35 degrees, and with extreme forces acting on her stacked deck cargo, she lost more than 100 containers over the side.
At least four of these containers have washed up in a wilderness area on the northern tip of Vancouver Island, along with a large volume of loose household goods and packing material from broken boxes. Some of the containers that remained on board were damaged in the incident and caught fire.
A spokesperson for the US Coast Guard VTS office for Puget Sound confirmed that Zim Kingston was out at sea at the time of the casualty because of port congestion. All major West Coast container ports (with the exception of Oakland) have unprecedented backlogs due to extreme demand for foreign-made consumer goods.
“The Zim Kingston was sort of in a holding pattern out there because the anchorages in both the U.S. side and the Canadian side of the border are pretty full,” said Laird Hail, director of the Puget Sound VTS, speaking to KUOW. “We’ve not always had room for vessels to be able to come into anchor, so many of them are holding offshore, waiting for a turn to come into either Canadian waters or US waters to anchor.”