The Hague — One sailor died and several others were injured after a fire broke out on a car carrier ship off the Netherlands on Wednesday, the Dutch coastguard said.
Rescue personnel received a call shortly after midnight (22:00 GMT on Tuesday) saying a fire had started on the Fremantle Highway, a Panamanian-registered ship with 3 000 vehicles on board, about 14.5 nautical miles (27 kilometres) off the northern Dutch island of Ameland.
“All 23 crew members have now been evacuated off the ship” with the use of helicopters and a boat, the Dutch coastguard said on its website.
“The crew tried to put out the fire themselves, but failed. Unfortunately one person died and several others were injured,” it added.
The Dutch coast guard says a fire caused by an EV is behind an inferno on the Panama-registered RORO Freemantle Highway off the coast of the Netherlands. De Telegraaf reports the ship has 2857 cars on board, including 25 electric vehicles. One reported death due to the blaze. pic.twitter.com/KdorJdkTJ2
— Greg Kable (@GregKable) July 26, 2023
At least seven crew members jumped overboard and were rescued from the water, while the rest were airlifted by helicopter.
The Fremantle Highway is an 18 500-ton car carrier ship and was sailing between Bremerhaven in Germany and Port Said in Egypt when the blaze broke out, according to the marinetraffic.com website.
“The blaze is still raging on board,” the coastguard said, adding that the ship was listing.
Salvage vessels were on the scene trying to put out the blaze and prevent the ship from sinking, the NOS national broadcaster said.
Specialised firefighters were called from Rotterdam, who would be taken to the ship by helicopter. But the fire developed so quickly that it was no longer safe to bring those firefighters on board.
A tug vessel has however managed to attach a cable to the stricken ship to prevent it from drifting and blocking an important sailing route into Germany, the NOS said.
“We are taking into account all scenarios,” a coastguard official told the NOS.
Het schip staat nog in brand. Het bergingsvaartuig Hunter heeft een noodverbinding met het schip en houdt het schip zo gecontroleerd op een positie. Meerdere partijen werken aan een plan van aanpak om de schade zoveel mogelijk te beperken. pic.twitter.com/EYFTJJaHVo
— Kustwacht Nederland (@Kustwacht_nl) July 26, 2023
TWEET TRANSLATION: The ship is still on fire. The recovery vessel Hunter has an emergency connection to the ship and thus keeps the ship in a controlled position. Several parties are working on a plan of action to limit the damage as much as possible.
The possible cause of the fire was an electric vehicle, one of some 25 on board, the official said.
The injured sailors were taken to the northern towns of Lauwersoog and Eelde and left in the care of paramedics there.
The Fremantle Highway is currently close to Ameland, one of four ecologically sensitive Frisian islands, situated in the Waddensee area just north of the Dutch mainland.
Some 340 containers tumbled off one of the world’s largest container ships after a storm in the same area in early 2019, littering kilometres of pristine coastline with plastic and polystyrene.
The most serious incident in recent times off the busy Dutch coast happened in December 2012 when the Bahamian-flagged car carrier Baltic Ice collided with a container ship and sank.
Eleven sailors were killed in that incident.
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