A shipment of Uranium concentrate was damaged on a cargo ship, during rough seas, while in transit from Vancouver to China, between Hawaii and Midway, in the Pacific. Two drum like containers, came loose from what I understand to be a larger shipping container, and have spilled their content into the ship's hold. The ship, the MCP Altona, was instructed to return to Canada by the Uranium's producer, Cameco, to deal with the situation. The cargo ship sits at anchor, off the east coast of Vancouver Island near the town of Chemainus.
Since it is very near my place, I had a drive down there today to have a look see. Not much activity was showing around noon today. According to news release and press reports, the situation has been assessed, a clean up plan proposed and federal agencies are overlooking the process. It is a bit unusual to see a such a cargo ship anchored off there, so before I even heard that of the situation, I noticed something was amiss.
The anchorage faces a quiet area, as is most of Vancouver Island; that particular area is peppered with retiree's homes and not much else. The anchorage is called Ladysmith, but really the ship is nearest the town of Chemainus. South of Chemainus, are the deep sea docks of the local pulp mill at Crofton, the only logical place for the ship to dock nearby, if deemed necessary. I am not sure why authorities chose to anchor the ship there, as Vancouver would have been a more appropriate place, with a greater access to resources to deal with this. One must wonder if the area is designated as a "port of refuge".
Chemainus is the base of operations for Jones Marine, a small log and general towing business, these guys are the most likely place to provide logistic support to the operation, this hunch was also supported by the sight of large newer rental SUVs in the parking lot. At the time of my visit, there appeared to be little activity at the yard or on the ship.
This shipment is touted as benign, but I certainly would be wary to start playing with anything labeled Uranium. Here and here, you can find out more about the nature of the shipment. With Canada being a leading worldwide exporter of Uranium products, this event is probably far more common than we like to think.
The MCP Altona is Chinese built cargo ship, classed by Germanischer Lloyd, and delivered in 2007 to its owners, Hartmann Shipping of Germany. The 7,853 DWT ship flies the Liberian flag and is managed by Intership of Cyprus - a small, but typical cargo ship. The ship was inspected by the USCG shortly after the incident, in Hawaii. It was also inspected by Transport Canada in December 2010, where 9 deficiencies were recorded, mostly dealing with certifications.
You can read more in the media here and here. Cameco's press release on the incident. I shot some video footage of the ship today, the zoom on my new camera is excellent, but my steady hand, not so much... Here it is below.
My first YouTube upload, that's progress! but I have no idea how I wound up with the ID "poppinwoods" - very strange.Picture of the Altona at the top, from internet sources.