A shipping disaster unfolded off the coast of the Netherlands this week as a car carrier vessel, the Fremantle Highway, erupted into flames. Contrary to initial reports by the coastguard, the ship was ferrying close to 500 electric vehicles, not just 25, according to “K” Line, the ship’s charter company.
Caught in the grip of the blaze, the new car hauler claimed the life of an Indian crew member. Tragically, seven others sustained injuries while making a desperate leap overboard to escape the inferno.
Reuters reports that onboard were 3,783 vehicles, including 498 battery electric cars, a spokesperson from Tokyo-based K Line divulged. However, they refrained from revealing the brands of the cars involved.
The root cause of the fire remains unknown, although a recording released by Dutch broadcaster RTL has an emergency responder stating, “the fire started in the battery of an electric car”.
Lithium-ion batteries, the lifeblood of electric vehicles, burn with double the intensity of conventional fires, a dangerous reality that maritime officials and insurers claim the industry has yet to address adequately.
With investigations underway by the Panama Maritime Authority, aided by the Netherlands, the truth will hopefully soon emerge. Meanwhile, the still-burning Fremantle, measuring a colossal 199-meters, drifts roughly 17 km from the northernmost Dutch coast. Its journey, which began in Germany and was destined for Egypt, has come to a catastrophic halt on the fringes of the Wadden Sea, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Photo courtesy of Coastguard Netherlands/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo