More container ship accidents in the Pacific

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The more things people buy, the more ships sail the Pacific Ocean loaded to the brim with containers. Combine bad weather, the occasional human error, and a lot more chance of making a mistake, and you inevitably end up with more accidents at sea.

A record number of containers fell overboard ships in the Pacific last winter, coinciding with soaring imports. A dominant theory about this month’s oil spill off Southern California is that a container ship dragged its anchor on an oil pipeline during a severe storm in January, and months later, the pipeline finally gave way.

The Zim Kingston container ship lost around 40 containers in rough seas on Friday. The next day, containers on board the ship caught fire.

Zim Kingston victim

The Zim Kingston built in 2008 has a capacity of 4,253 twenty-foot equivalent units. She is owned by Danaos Corporation (NYSE: DAC) and is long-term chartered to Zim (NYSE: ZIM) at a rate of $ 25,500 per day until April 2023.

View from a Friday helicopter of Zim boxes overboard (Photo: US Coast Guard)

The vessel is currently deployed in Zim’s ZP9 service, which calls at Chinese ports including Yantian, Ningbo and Shanghai, then Busan, South Korea, then Vancouver.

As the ship sailed to Vancouver with a full load on Friday, around 40 containers fell overboard at the mouth of the Strait of Juan del Fuoco when “the ship lay on its side due to rough seas.” the US Coast Guard said.

Following the loss of crates, the Zim Kingston weighed anchor off Victoria on Vancouver Island. On Saturday, a fire broke out in containers aboard the ship. The Canadian Coast Guard said that at one point 10 containers were on fire, two of which contained potassium amylxanthate, a hazardous material used in mining.

Cold water was used to cool the hull overnight on Saturday (Photo: Canadian Coast Guard)

Sixteen crew members were evacuated; five remained on board. The Canadian Coast Guard on Saturday established an emergency zone within a nautical mile of the ship, warning that the fire was “expelling poisonous gas” and reporting that two more containers had fallen overboard. On Sunday, Transport Canada reported prohibited all drones and aircraft from approaching within two nautical miles of the accident.

Ship positioning data from MarineTraffic showed three vessels were helping fight the fires on Sunday: the towing vessel Seaspan Raven and the offshore supply vessels Maersk Trader and Maersk Tender.

The Canadian Coast Guard explained that “during the night the Seaspan Raven cooled the hull by spraying the hull with cold water. Due to the nature of the chemicals on board the container ship, applying water directly to the fire is not an option. Video of the ship on Sunday (live webcam here) appears to show the fire is contained.

Major weather event

Weather conditions are expected to worsen as a so-called “bomb cyclone” hits the west coast of North America. Winds around Victoria are expected to exceed 40 miles per hour on Sunday and Monday. Oakland is expecting heavy rain, winds of up to 45 miles per hour and dangerous seas.

Container ships off Los Angeles / Long Beach on Sunday. Map: Maritime traffic

To the south, off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, an armada of container ships is lining up. The Southern California Marine Exchange said Friday, “For Monday’s wind event, the Marine Exchange is voluntarily asking ships to go to sea… for the safety of their ship and other ships. This [has been] common practice in the past.

On Sunday, the ships had not yet left their anchorage points. The number of stranded container ships waiting off Los Angeles / Long Beach hit a record 79 on Thursday. Ship positioning data from MarineTraffic shows the number of vessels offshore remained historically high on Sunday as the weather system approached.

Fire fallout

Even if the fire is largely extinguished Sunday with little impact on the environment, the fallout from the victim of Zim Kingston will be significant. Shippers whose boxes have not been damaged on board the vessel face very long delivery delays. The vessel itself will likely be out of service for an extended period, which will negatively impact Zim’s throughput in Q4 2021.

From a broader market perspective, incidents like the Zim Kingston accident have a much greater ripple effect than in the past.

Lars Jensen, CEO of consulting firm Vespucci Maritime, told American Shipper in a previous interview: “You always have a ship that breaks down. There is always a strike at the port somewhere. I wouldn’t say you always have a burning ship, but unfortunately it also happens quite frequently. Normally this is a local problem. The cargo is slightly delayed or this cargo is transferred to another service.

“But now there are no other ships. They’re all saturated – you can’t fit a replacement ship there. And it is out of the question to transfer the cargo to the next ship, because they are already full. So right now, with each additional operational mishap, you’re adding more cargo to the cargo stack that you can’t move as you push past you and things just get worse.

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