In a positive turn of events, the fire that has been raging on a car carrier off the Dutch coast has shown signs of diminishing intensity, allowing salvagers to take necessary actions. The Panamanian-registered vessel, Fremantle Highway, was transporting new cars when the fire broke out, tragically leading to the death of an Indian crew member, while seven others had to leap overboard to escape the engulfing flames.
Authorities reported that measurements taken by the salvage company indicated a significant drop in temperatures aboard the ship on Friday morning. Although the fire is still active, it is now producing less smoke. The lower temperatures have enabled the salvage team to briefly board the Fremantle and secure stronger tow lines at the top of the ship, providing better control over the vessel’s movement.
Despite the improvement, the situation remains critical, and Rijkswaterstaat, the Dutch water board, is closely considering various scenarios for the next steps in handling the situation.
The ship charter company “K” Line disclosed that there were 3,783 vehicles on board the Fremantle, including a surprising 498 battery electric vehicles, which is significantly higher than the initial report of 25. However, the specific car brands, including whether any Japanese manufacturers’ vehicles were on board, have not been disclosed by the Tokyo-based spokesperson for K Line (Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha).
While the exact cause of the fire remains unknown, an emergency responder’s recording released by Dutch broadcaster RTL indicated that the fire might have originated in the battery of an electric car. The incident highlights the risks associated with lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles, as they burn with twice the energy of a regular fire.
An investigation into the incident has been launched by the Panama Maritime Authority, with the Netherlands providing assistance to the inquiry through the Dutch Safety Board.
The Fremantle, measuring 199 meters (653 feet) in length, is currently drifting about 17 kilometers from the northernmost Dutch coast. The vessel was en route from Germany to Egypt when the fire erupted, leaving it stranded in the waters near the Wadden Islands. These islands, situated on the northernmost tip of the Netherlands, are part of the Wadden Sea, a unique area of tidal flats and marshland that stretches along Germany and Denmark, earning a spot on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.
As the situation unfolds, authorities and salvage teams are working diligently to ensure the safety of crew members and the vessel itself. The incident serves as a stark reminder of the challenges involved in handling emergencies at sea and underscores the need for ongoing efforts to address safety concerns in the maritime industry.
- What is the current status of the fire on the car carrier off the Dutch coast? The fire’s intensity has lessened, and salvagers have been able to board the ship to secure stronger tow lines, allowing better control of the vessel.
- How many vehicles were on board the car carrier, and were any of them electric cars? There were 3,783 vehicles on board the ship, including 498 battery electric vehicles, more than the initial report of 25.
- What is the suspected cause of the fire on the car carrier? While the exact cause remains unknown, an emergency responder’s recording suggested that the fire might have started in the battery of an electric car.
- How are maritime officials addressing the risks associated with electric vehicle batteries? EV lithium-ion batteries burn with twice the energy of a normal fire, leading to concerns that the industry has not adequately addressed these risks.
- What steps are being taken to investigate the incident on the car carrier? An investigation has been initiated by the Panama Maritime Authority, with the Netherlands providing assistance through the Dutch Safety Board.