A fire on the freight ship Fremantle Highway, carrying nearly 3,000 cars, via AP/PAA fire on the freight ship Fremantle Highway, carrying nearly 3,000 cars, via AP/PA


Burning freight ship was carrying more electric cars than first reported, shipping company says

  • K Line says vessel was carrying more EVs than first reported by Coastguard
  • Initial list said 2,857 cars were on board including 25 EVs, but now revised to 3,783 vehicles, including 498 EVs
  • Ship will now be towed to a new location

Time 7:43 am, July 29, 2023

A freight ship that caught fire off the Dutch coast this week was carrying far more electric cars than was first estimated, officials have reported.

The news comes as salvage crews have now boarded the vessel for the first time as heat, flames and smoke have eased.

The Fremantle Highway had been en route to Egypt from Germany on Wednesday (Jul 26) when it caught fire, killing one crew member and injuring others.

‘In the course of the morning, after measurements by the recovery companies, it turned out that the temperature on board the Fremantle Highway had dropped sharply. The fire is still raging but decreasing. The smoke is also decreasing,’ the Netherlands’ coastguard said.

Salvage workers boarded the ship and established ‘a new more robust towing connection’, the agency added. ‘This makes it easier to move the ship and keep it under control.’

On Saturday (Jul 29), crews were looking to tow the cargo ship to an anchor point in the North Sea, but high winds have hampered efforts so far.

The entire crew was evacuated from the ship in the early hours of Wednesday, with some leaping into the sea and being picked up by a lifeboat. The cause of the fire has not been established.

The Fremantle Highway was 14 miles north of the island of Terschelling on Friday afternoon, close to busy North Sea shipping lanes and an internationally renowned migratory bird habitat.

K Line, the company that chartered the ship, said on Friday that it was carrying far more electric vehicles than initially reported by the coastguard.

Company spokesman Pat Adamson said the ship was carrying a total of 3,783 new vehicles, including 498 electric vehicles.

The coastguard, citing an early freight list, had said it was carrying 2,857 cars, including 25 electric cars.

The US National Transportation Safety Board has warned about the possible dangers of electric vehicle battery fires, a hazard that stems from thermal runaway, a chemical reaction that causes uncontrolled battery temperature and pressure increases.

The burning vessel was close to the shallow Wadden Sea, a World Heritage-listed area that is considered one of the world’s most significant habitats for migratory birds.

It is also close to the Netherlands’ border with Germany, whose environment minister, Steffi Lemke, said on Thursday that if the ship were to sink, it ‘could turn into an environmental catastrophe of unknown proportions’.

Earlier this month in Newark, New Jersey, firefighters took nearly a week to extinguish a similar blaze in a car transport ship. Two firefighters were killed and five others were injured battling the flames.

Story originally published on July 29 at 07:43. Updated on July 30 at 06:36 and July 21 at 06:45

Pictured at top: Smoke and flames are seen on the car freight ship Fremantle Highway. Image credit: Kustwacht Nederland/Coastguard Netherlands via AP

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer. In October 2021 he became Car Dealer's associate editor.

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