Car transport ship fire could 'burn for days' in North Sea

There were consultations on Saturday with the salvage companies and the Dutch Coast Guard about when the car carrier Fremantle Highway can be towed.

The temperature on board the ship has dropped sharply and the intensity of the fire and the smoke development have decreased.

The smoke from the ship was considerably reduced and the towing of the ship Fremantle Highway started early in the afternoon yesterday.

The Fremantle Highway is now towed slowly and in a controlled manner by two tugs to the new temporary location, 16 km north of Schiermonnikoog and Ameland, the agency of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, Rijkswaterstaat reported.

During towing, the stability of the ship is continuously monitored, among other things, whilst Rijkswaterstaat’s pollution control vessel Arca also remains nearby. Other ships are available on call if oil pollution occurs.

The exact time of arrival at the temporary destination cannot yet be indicated, in accordance with the latest information given by the agency. The timing of the operation that is expected to take 12-14 hours depends on smoke development and weather.

Surrounding ships and the Coast Guard aircraft will continue to monitor the situation on site.

As soon as the situation on board the ship allows, the ship will be towed to a port to be determined. However, which port is not yet known and the agency is not giving any more information.

“By dragging it to the temporary location now, we are already sorting for the next step in the salvage process,” the agency said.

In recent days, the coast guard, and the salvage companies have investigated whether and how the ship can be towed away and salvaged in the safest possible way.

The condition of the ship has been monitored by various experts, such as naval architects, experts in the field of hazardous substances, firefighters and nautical specialists.

The fire which has been burning on the car carrier has lessened in intensity and salvagers have been able to board the ship to secure stronger tow lines, authorities said on Friday.

Around midnight on July 26, the Coast Guard Center received a report that there was a fire on the car carrier Fremantle Highway. There were 23 crew members onboard and, at that time, the ship was sailing 27 kilometers north of Ameland.

The crew attempted to extinguish the fire themselves, but were unsuccessful. The fire continued to spread, prompting an evacuation. All 23 crew members were evacuated from the burning vessel by helicopters and lifeboats. According to Dutch Coast Guard, one crew member died and several were injured.