Car-carrying ship off Dutch coast still burning

The boat was carrying 2,857 cars, including 25 electric vehicles, according to the coast guard

Car-carrying ship off Dutch coast still burning
Car-carrying ship off Dutch coast still burning


A cargo ship that erupted in flames while carrying nearly 3,000 cars off the Dutch coast was still burning on Thursday, the coast guard said.

The Panamanian-flagged Fremantle Highway was sailing from the German port of Bremerhaven to Singapore when it caught fire just before midnight on Tuesday. One Indian crew member died and several of the 22 others on board were injured.

The coast guard said the cause of the fire was unknown. The ship's Japanese owner said there was a "good chance that the fire started with electric cars," but added that the cause still needs to be investigated.

The boat was carrying 2,857 cars, including 25 electric vehicles, according to the coast guard.

Experts waiting to board ship

Salvage specialists were set to fly over the vessel on Thursday to take stock of the ship's condition before experts are able to board.

Dutch Safety Board spokesman Arjen Zegers told the Reuters news agency that the Panama Maritime Authority had launched an investigation and that the Netherlands was expected to assist in the inquiry.

The ship is currently tied to a tugboat and is drifting westward in international waters, about 16 kilometers (8.6 miles) from the Dutch island of Terschelling.

Risk of an oil spill is low, says Dutch minister

The Fremantle Highway's proximity to the World Heritage-listed Wadden See — an ecologically sensitive bird habitat — has sparked concerns about the environmental fallout should the boat sink. German Environment Minister Steffi Lemke said that possibility couldn't be ruled out.

"A totally normal car transport by sea could turn into an environmental catastrophe of unknown proportions," Lemke said in a statement. "This fills me with deep concern."

She said that if the ship sinks, "large quantities of fuel and other environmentally harmful pollutants from the cargo ship's load could contaminate the sensitive ecosystem of the North Sea extensively. The unique Wadden Sea national park is in serious danger. That must be prevented with all our resources."

However, Dutch Infrastructure and Waterways Minister Mark Harbers said in a letter to lawmakers that the risk of an oil spill was low.

"The current and anticipated wind and wave direction for the coming days are such that any contamination will spread to the north, and therefore not to the Wadden Islands."

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