One dead, several injured in fire onboard Fremantle Highway car carrier
One crew member died and several other were injured as fire broke out on Fremantle Highway PCTC sailing in the North Sea, some 27 kilometres north of Ameland, The Netherlands. The Dutch Kustwacht (Coast Guard) received a distress call around midnight.
According to the Coast Guard report, the vessel’s crew attempted to extinguish the fire to no success. The fire spreading prompted evacuation by helicopters and lifeboats. Unfortunately, one crew member died and several other were injured.
Crew members were taken to Lauwersoog and to Groningen Airport Eelde where they were looked after by the paramedics.
In the latest update, Coast Guard said the vessel is still on fire. The recovery vessel Hunter has an emergency connection to the ship and thus keeps the ship in a controlled position, the Coast Guard said, adding that currently, several parties such as recovery companies and Rijkswaterstaat are looking at the best options to limit the damage as much as possible.
Speaking to NT, Coast Guard spokesperson said that the vessel 2857 cars on board, 25 of which are electric cars. According to the vessel’s AIS data, it was heading from Bremerhaven in Germany to Port Said in Egypt.
The cause of fire is still unknown, however, speculation on one of the 25 electric cars being at fault is already swirling in the media. The demand for electric vehicles has already been highlighted by RoRO operators as a major concern as EV fires onboard vessels can have catastrophic consequences due to the fact that Li-ion batteries generate extreme heat in the case of malfunction.
This heat can quickly spread to nearby combustible materials, causing a rapid fire that’s challenging to extinguish.
No change (Update)
In the afternoon hours of Wednesday, Coast Guard noted that the situation with the vessel remains the same. A salvage company has brought specialists onboard the tug Guardian, to evaluate the options of establishing a safe towage connection. The current connection established by the tug Hunter, is in place only to ensure that Fremantle Highway does not drift, it can’t be use to tow the vessel.
Guardian, as well as the Nordic are working on cooling the vessel’s sides with fire extinguishers. The Nordic is set to be replaced by the Fairplay 30. Coast Guard added that the fire cannot yet be extinguished.
In a post through its social media, the Coast Guard said a number of aircraft was noticed heading towards the incident site. The Coast Guard urged the aircraft to stay away from the location as their presence hinders the salvage operations.