Cargo ship carrying 3,000 vehicles caught fire, EV batteries suspected

One crew member has died, while 22 others managed to escape with a few sustaining serious injuries.
Jijo Malayil
Rescue ships spraying water on Fremantle Highway.
Rescue ships spraying water on Fremantle Highway.

Getty Images 

A large cargo vessel carrying more than 3,000 cars, including electric vehicles, has caught on fire off the Dutch coast. The incident has killed one person and injured several others as the fire rampages and coastguard agencies warned that the blaze will take several days to be put under control, according to Guardian.

The fire was reported on Freemantle Highway, a 199-meter freight carrier registered in Panama. The cargo vessel was on its way from Germany to Egypt when the incident happened on Tuesday night, and it is reported that several of the 22 crew members leaped 30m (100ft) into the sea to escape the blaze. 

News reports suggest that crew members attempted to extinguish the flames themselves at first, but were overwhelmed and had to evacuate.

Currently, efforts are on to spray rescue ships to bring down the flames, but according to the Dutch Coastguard, too much water could also risk the chance of the ship remaining afloat. The authorities have hooked the ship to a salvage vessel to prevent it from drifting off. 

Fire may have been caused by EV batteries 

It is reported that the vessel also carried nearly 25 EVs in the shipment of about 3,000 cars. According to Guardian, the ship's owner claimed that one of the EVs in the cargo was the possible cause of the blaze. 

“We are now trying to extinguish the fire in cooperation with the local authorities of [the] Netherlands, the salvor, and the ship management company," said Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd, the ship leasing company responsible for the vessel, in a statement. 

The company said that it is highly likely that the "fire started with electric cars. But we are not entirely sure of the cause, we are waiting for the investigation." 

Efforts to minimize damage and disruptions

The rescue vessels were able to tug the burning cargo vessel out of major ship lines to reduce disruption to other ships passing through the busy shipping route. "The fire could burn for days. The ship is being cooled to maintain its stability. Only the ship's side is being sprayed, not the deck," said a coastguard member to AFP. 

There is a high possibility that Fremantle Highway, which started its journey from the port of Bremerhaven, may sink. It is presently near Ameland, one of four environmentally fragile Frisian islands in the Waddenzee region immediately north of the Dutch mainland, said Guardian. 

The area is one of the Unesco World Heritage sites, hosting over 10,000 aquatic and terrestrial species. This comprises about 140 fish species, nearly 20 of which live in the sea. The authorities reported that salvage boats have been circling the ship in readiness for any eventuality, and an oil-recovery vessel has been dispatched to the location in case of a leak. Air traffic controllers have prohibited planes from flying near the ship.

The shipping route has seen many such accidents in recent years. In 2019, 270 shipping containers, some of which contained chemicals, were washed up on Dutch beaches after falling off another Panamanian-registered cargo ship in a storm. Last year, another fire destroyed 4,000 expensive automobiles on a ship that sank off the coast of Portugal’s Azores islands with lithium-ion batteries found to be the cause of the incident.

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board