Photo: Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management

The fire-ravaged car-carrier Fremantle Highway is on its way to Eemshaven, a Dutch energy, windfarm and transhipment port, 64km from its recent mooring.

The approach of inclement weather forced Rijkswaterstaat, the directorate-general of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, to approve the tow to Eemshaven, chosen because it was one of the nearest ports.

Once smoke was no longer rising from the ship after the blaze was finally extinguished, salvors boarded the vessel, found no evidence of hull breaches below the waterline and will monitor the towing operation.

Sheltered by the Wadden Islands, Eemshaven features a ship repair yard, which will likely be used in the salvaging of the vessel.

The Panama-flagged Fremantle Highway had a crew of 23, including 21 Indian nationals, one of whom died in the blaze and many were injured.

The vessel carried 3,783 vehicles, some 498 of which were electric-powered (EVs), contrary to initial reports which suggested there were significantly fewer. This was a considerably higher number and proportion of EVs than were on Felicity Ace, the vessel which sank in mid-Atlantic last year after a similar catastrophic fire.

The Dutch kustwacht (coastguard) has come in for criticism for outsourcing helicopter services, which Dutch media claimed had delayed the emergency response. Seven Fremantle Highway crew were forced to jump off the side of the ship, a 30-metre drop which could have proved fatal. Early footage shows flames engulfing the ship’s upper deck behind the accommodation block, which would have rendered two davit-mounted lifeboats inaccessible.

Although the kustwacht promised to scramble helicopters within 20 minutes, the outsourced rented Bristow helicopters took more than twice as long to arrive as they should have done, it is claimed.

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  • Glenn Mathias

    August 03, 2023 at 5:47 pm

    The iron rule of safety/rescue at sea: when safety is privatised, it will always be trumped by profit

    Preventing fires from EVs on vessels is not rocket science. The law should require batteries to be removed from EVs for marine transport. The batteries should be supplied by the EV dealer.