Hundreds of cars still intact onboard fire-damaged Fremantle Highway

Hundreds of cars still intact onboard fire-damaged Fremantle Highway — 2023-08-09

Maritime and Ports

Regardless of the fire that raged on for days on the Fremantle Highway car carrier, reports now claim that some of its cargo is undamaged.

After the ship caught fire on 25 July 2023, Multraship Towage and the Boskalis-owned Smit Salvage were put in charge to assess the damage, take it to port when possible, and ultimately salvage what was left onboard.

The vessel had 21 crewmen at the time of the incident – all Indian nationals, one of whom died. Also onboard were the pilot and a superintendent. All of them were rescued by boat and helicopter.

The car carrier was towed to Eemshaven port last 3 August 2023, around 2 PM local time, nine days after catching fire. The operation was started after the fire subsided and when no smoke was visible.

Firefighters monitored the car carrier over the weekend with a heavily equipped Marine Fire Brigade at the ready if the fire flared up again. As that was not the case, salvage teams boarded the vessel this week to start the assessment of the ship’s cargo.

Richard Janssen, director of Smit Salvage, told local media that a large number of cars on the lower decks of the Fremantle Highway were still “intact” after teams inspected the ships from inside. He claimed that, upon visual inspection, the cars were in a reasonably normal condition.

The recoverable cars, Janssen said, were located on decks one through four which held both electric and fuel-powered cars. The ship was loaded with 3,784 cars, 498 of them electric. Certain media reports are stating that up to 800 cars are still intact.

The Smit Salvage director said in an interview with a local radio station that the fire raged through decks six through eleven and that some of the cars were not destroyed due to deck five being empty. The investigators will be looking to confirm if the fire started on deck eight.

Janssen further added that the cars on the ship’s upper decks were so damaged that they were no longer usable. The manufacturers will inspect the undamaged cars and instruct the salvage team on what to do with them.

He stressed that, despite the fire burning for days, the engine room also remained intact and that a salvage team would attempt to get some systems back online and pump the fuel.

That is an important contribution to the consideration that the shipowner will have whether to repair the ship or offer it for recycling,” said Janssen.