Burning car carrier towed to temporary location off Dutch coast

AMSTERDAM, July 31 (Reuters) – A burning car carrier off the Dutch coast has been towed to a new location away from shipping lanes as part of an operation to salvage the ship, the Dutch public works and water management ministry and local media said on Monday.

The freighter, which was travelling from Germany to Egypt when the blaze broke out on July 26, was towed to a location north of the Dutch islands Ameland and Schiermonnikoog, the Rijkswaterstaat ministry said in a statement.

The fire on the Panamanian-registered Fremantle Highway, which was carrying new cars, resulted in the death of an Indian crew member and the injury of seven who jumped overboard to escape the flames. Japan’s Shoei Kisen, which owns the ship, said the entire crew of 21 was Indian.

A Rijkswaterstaat spokeswoman told the Dutch ANP press agency that at the new temporary location, the ship would be further removed from shipping routes and more sheltered from wind.

Smoke rises from burning cargo ship Fremantle Highway at sea off the Netherlands, July 28, 2023. Dutch Coastguard/Handout via REUTERS

The relocation is an intermediate step in the difficult salvage operation, the spokeswoman said.

Ship charter company “K” Line said on Friday there were 3,783 vehicles on board the ship – including 498 battery electric vehicles, significantly more than the 25 initially reported.

The company declined to say anything about the car brands, including whether they included any cars from Japanese manufacturers.

EV lithium-ion batteries burn with twice the energy of a normal fire, and maritime officials and insurers say the industry has not kept up with the risks.

Reporting by Charlotte Van Campenhout; editing by Robert Birsel and Mark Heinrich

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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