Fire-stricken freighter heads to Eemshaven
Eemshaven has come up as the most suitable port where the fire-stricken Fremantle Highway can be towed to. The vessel has been sitting at its temporary anchorage some 16 km above Schiermonnikoog and Ameland while the parties involved found the suitable port.
According to Rijkswaterstaat, Eemshaven has been seen as the most suitable port, due to the distance (64 kilometres), deteriorating weather conditions, the existing infrastructure and facilities that the port can provide for the upcoming steps in the salvage of the vessel. Keeping the towage as short as possible limits the risk of further disaster.
The authorities noted that the departure and arrival of Fremantle Highway to Eemshaven is dependent on weather, current and tide, however, the vessel is set to depart in the morning of Thursday, August 3.
The situation on board the cargo ship is still stable. Most of the ship has now been inspected and there are no indications that there is still a fire. During the towing journey, experts are on board the Fremantle Highway to constantly monitor the vessel’s status. The Guardian of the Coast Guard and the oil response vessel Arca of Rijkswaterstaat will accompany the trip, the authorities said.
The story so far
The vessel, that was on its way from Bremen to Singapore, was moving almost 3800 cars, with 498 electric vehicles on board, a K Line spokesperson told the German news agency DPA. The distress call came to the Dutch Coast Guard at midnight on July 25.
While the reason for the fire is yet unknown, it is widely speculated that it could be one of the EVs onboard.
RoRo operators have voiced their concern over transporting EVs and the risk of fires onboard vessels. Such incidents 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.
However, as the fire and smoke subsided, and the temperature dropped, inspection crews were able to board the vessel, establish a towing connection and move the Fremantle Highway to a new location starting July 30 in the early afternoon, and completed in the morning of July 31.
Update: August 3, 14:50
Fremantle Highway arrives in Eemshaven
Once the decision was made about the port, towing began at 5:00 on August 3. The vessel remained stable during towing with experts onboard the vessel constantly monitoring the status.
Rijkswaterstaat added in its update that the owner of the vessel remains responsible for the further handling of the cargo and everything that goes with it. Rijkswaterstaat remains responsible for water quality. If necessary, the authorities will place an oil-conducting screen around the ship to limit any contamination. Once the ship is moored at the quay, Rijkswaterstaat no longer has a role in the further handling of the incident.
In a separate announcement, Groningen Seaports said that the vessel was towed into port around 13:30 and docked at its agreed location around 14:30.
The ship is expected to be towed into port at 1.30 pm and will dock at the agreed location around 2.30 pm.