Fire-damaged Fremantle Highway going to Eemshaven port

Fire-damaged Fremantle Highway going to Eemshaven port — 2023-08-03

Maritime and Ports

The Dutch authorities have chosen Eemshaven port as the final destination for the fire-damaged car carrier Fremantle Highway.

After consultation with all parties involved, Minister Markus Harbers of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management decided that the car carrier would be towed to Eemshaven. The ship is currently 16 kilometres from Schiermonnikoog and Ameland.

Eemshaven is only 64 kilometres away and its existing infrastructure and facilities are adequate for the next steps in salvaging the ship. The port was also chosen due to the deteriorating weather conditions.

The Directorate-General of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management – otherwise known as Rijkswaterstaat – claimed that the risks were limited by keeping the towage journey as short as possible.

The ship’s exact departure and arrival time depends on the weather, current, and tide. Departure from the current location was scheduled for the morning of 3 August 2023.

Rijkswaterstaat added that the situation onboard the cargo ship was still stable. Most of the ship has been inspected and there are no indications of a fire.

During the tow to Eemshaven, experts will be onboard the Fremantle Highway to monitor the vessel’s status. The Coast Guard’s ship Guardian and Rijkswaterstaat’s oil response vessel Arca will accompany the car carrier to the port.

The fire broke out on the vessel on the night of 24 July 2023. The vessel had 21 crewmen – all Indian nationals, one of whom died. Also on board were the pilot and a superintendent. All of them were rescued and the injured crewmembers were taken by ambulance to nearby hospitals with breathing problems, burns, and broken bones.

Early attempts to salvage the vessel were not fruitful as the vessel was too hot for anyone to board. From 28 July 2023, onwards, temperature and smoke decreased drastically, and a salvage team was able to board the car carrier.

It was decided that the Fremantle Highway would be towed to a temporary location north of Schiermonnikoog to decrease the chance of polluting the Wadden Islands. The tow started on 30 July 2023, and the vessel was on location and moored on 31 July 2023.

K Line, the company chartering the ship, confirmed to Splash that the total number of cars onboard was 3,783 units – all brand new. Of that number, 498 cars were EVs.

While the coastguard still claims the source of the blaze is unknown there has been widespread speculation that an electric vehicle is again to blame. Such vehicles use lithium-ion batteries that, when on fire, can reach temperatures of more than 2,700 degrees Celsius.