As Fremantle Highway’s fire quiets down, final port destination remains unknown

As the situation surrounding the fire-stricken car carrier Fremantle Highway continues to be closely monitored, the fire on board seems to have subsided.

Image credit Rijkswaterstaat

There are no indications that the fire is still burning, according to the latest update from Rijkswaterstaat, a government agency overseeing water management, transportation infrastructure, and environmental protection in the Netherlands.

Following the vessel’s arrival at the temporary anchorage, some 16 km above Schiermonnikoog and Ameland, the vessel has been described to be in a stable condition. Most areas of the ship have been inspected, and the hull below the waterline remains intact, with no signs of tilting.

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This strategic towing to a temporary anchorage is aimed at minimizing disruptions to other shipping traffic while the situation on board is assessed.

Over the past few days, substantial smoke had been emitted from the Fremantle Highway, accompanied by visible burn marks on its outer hull. Nevertheless, the agency said that the closer to the waterline, the ship’s side remained intact, thanks to the cooling effect of the surrounding seawater, preserving the ship’s integrity below the waterline.

The MS Arca, Rijkswaterstaat’s oil recovery vessel, has been diligently overseeing the scene keeping a watchful eye on even the tiniest oil slick. There have been no reports of an oil spill.

Despite the apparent stability, the Arca will remain stationed nearby as a precautionary measure. Safety is paramount, especially in the ecologically sensitive Wadden Sea region. Wadden Islands are a UNESCO World Heritage site, known for their ecological significance; hence, the potential oil spill from the fire-stricken car carrier poses a significant environmental risk.

Specialists from the salvage combination have conducted an initial inspection, while recovery teams devise a comprehensive action plan for towing the freighter to its final destination and subsequent salvage operations.

The freighter remains connected to a tugboat, ensuring constant supervision and control at its new location. Nearby vessels, including the Arca and the coastguard aircraft, continuously monitor the situation as well.

The exact port for the final destination is yet to be determined, considering various factors such as the ship’s condition, upcoming weather conditions, and the availability of suitable facilities at potential ports. All parties involved are in constant communication, deliberating the most suitable course of action.

As soon as a decision is reached, updates will be provided, Rijkswaterstaat said.

The fire was reported to the Dutch coast guard on Tuesday evening, July 25, shortly before midnight, as the car carrier, loaded with nearly 3,000 vehicles, was sailing some 27 kilometers north of Ameland, an island off the northern Dutch coast.

All 23 crew members have been taken off the PCTC, chartered by Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha (K Line).

Regrettably, one crew member has been reported deceased. 

The vessel is owned by Shoei Kisen, and managed by Wallem Ship Management.