Authorities in the Netherlands have undertaken a critical operation to tow a cargo ship, named Fremantle Highway, carrying over 3,000 cars, which has been engulfed in flames for almost a week. The 41-mile (66km) operation to move the vessel began on Sunday and was executed smoothly, as reported by the Rijkswaterstaat national water management agency.
The cause of the fire that broke out last Tuesday remains uncertain, but the ship’s owner has speculated that one of the electric vehicles onboard might have been the source of the blaze. Tragically, one sailor lost his life during the incident, while 22 others were rescued, some of whom had to resort to jumping overboard. Most of the rescued crew members have been discharged from the hospital.
Currently located 10 miles north of the islands of Schiermonnikoog and Ameland, the ship’s new temporary position aims to minimize the risk of an ecological disaster. The waters surrounding the area include a Unesco world heritage site and are home to a diverse ecosystem of more than 10,000 aquatic and terrestrial species. The Wadden Sea, in particular, hosts over 140 fish species, with about 20 species exclusively residing in the tidal areas along the islands’ mud flats.
Authorities are closely monitoring the potential impact of pollutants on the environment and the nearby ecologically sensitive islands. By relocating the ship, the authorities aim to better manage different scenarios and potential weather conditions, while also ensuring it is out of busy shipping lanes.
To respond to any potential oil spills, a specialized vessel is stationed nearby, ready to spring into action. Once deemed safe, authorities will conduct an inspection of the cargo ship to assess the situation further.
At the time of the incident, the Fremantle Highway was carrying nearly 500 electric vehicles among the total 3,783 vehicles onboard from the German port of Bremerhaven to Singapore. The ship charter company “K” Line disclosed this information on Friday.
This incident is reminiscent of a similar one in March 2022 when a cargo ship carrying approximately 4,000 Volkswagen cars, including electric models, caught fire and sank off the coast of the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean.