Ship Carrying 3,000 Cars On Fire Off Dutch Coast, Electric Car Reportedly Caused

A fire blazed on a ship off the Dutch coast with nearly 3,000 vehicles on board on Wednesday, killing one member of the crew and injuring several others, the coastguard said. – Reuters, July 26:

The fire began on Tuesday night on the 199-metre Panama-registered Fremantle Highway, which was en route from Germany to Egypt, forcing several crew members to jump overboard. Dutch broadcaster NOS said all the crew were Indian.

The coastguard said on its website that the cause of the fire was unknown, but a coastguard spokesperson had earlier told Reuters it began near an electric car. Roughly 25 out 2,857 vehicles on the ship were electric.

The International Maritime Organisation, which sets out regulation for safety at sea, plans to evaluate new measures for ships transporting electric vehicles next year in light of the growing number of fires on cargo ships, a spokesperson said.

“Electric cars burn just as much as combustion engine cars. When batteries overheat and a so-called ‘thermal runaway’ occurs, then it gets dangerous,” said Uwe-Peter Schieder, master mariner and representative of the German Insurance Association. “A chemical reaction in the battery produces gases which inflate the battery.”

Rescue ships sprayed water onto the burning boat to cool it down, but using too much water risked its sinking, the Dutch coastguard said. A salvage vessel was hooked on to stop it drifting.

The fire might last for several days, Dutch news agency ANP reported, citing the coastguard. Smoke continued to billow from the vessel near the northern Dutch island of Ameland.

“The fire is most definitely still not controlled. It’s a very hard fire to extinguish, possibly because of the cargo the ship was transporting,” said Edwin Versteeg, a spokesperson for the Dutch Department of Waterways and Public Works.