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caption: Shipping containers spilled from the cargo ship Zim Kingston about 40 miles west of Cape Flattery on Washington's Olympic Peninsula 
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Shipping containers spilled from the cargo ship Zim Kingston about 40 miles west of Cape Flattery on Washington's Olympic Peninsula
Credit: U.S. Coast Guard

Cargo ship spills 40 shipping containers off Washington’s Olympic Peninsula

A cargo ship heading from Busan, South Korea, to Vancouver, Canada, hit rough seas, listed to one side, and spilled about 40 shipping containers off the Olympic Peninsula early Friday morning.

The Zim Kingston lost part of its payload just after midnight about 40 miles west of Cape Flattery.

“The weather conditions at the time were 16-to-20-foot waves. That’s enough to impact a boat pretty badly,” said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Diolanda Caballero.

By mid-afternoon, a helicopter from the U.S. Coast Guard station in Port Angeles was able to locate eight of the stackable metal boxes afloat in the Pacific. Before sunset, 35 containers had been spotted, many drifting north toward Vancouver Island.

Environment Canada issued a gale warning for the west coast of Vancouver Island Friday night, with winds up to 40 miles per hour out of the southeast.

Two of the containers are believed to contain hazardous materials, according to Caballero. She said the hazardous materials were combustible but did not have more information about them.

"These containers may be partially submerged and not visible," the U.S. Coast Guard warned mariners on Friday and urged extreme caution to any ships in the area.

The ship is now “safely anchored” off Victoria, British Columbia, according to Caballero.

The Zim Kingston is operated by Zim Integrated Shipping Services Ltd. of Israel and is sailing under the flag of Malta. A spokesperson for the publicly traded company could not be reached for comment Friday evening.

According to marinetraffic.com, the 850-foot ship is capable of carrying more than 1,000 40-foot shipping containers.

The Zim website says the ship left Busan, South Korea’s largest port, on Oct. 6, and was scheduled to arrive at the Port of Vancouver Oct. 20.

Other cargo ships on Friday were maneuvering in loops around the 10-mile-wide Strait of Juan de Fuca, the relatively sheltered gateway to the main ports of both Washington and British Columbia.

Many anchorages in the region are occupied.

"It’s almost safer for them to be moving than anchored because they can drag anchor,” Caballero said. “Because the Strait of Juan de Fuca is so deep, their anchors may not be able to touch bottom."

“The Coast Guard has their hands full trying to arrange locations for these vessels to anchor,” Puget Sound Pilots president Ivan Carlson said in an email.

“The Puget Sound anchorages have been under a lot of stress the past several months,” Carlson said. “Residents are frustrated with ships at anchor in their neighborhood.”

Congested ports and freight hubs up and down the West Coast reflect a global disruption to supply chains for goods transported long distances.