Towing of Fremantle Highway begins with Eemshaven selected as the port of refuge
After several days of deliberation, it has been concluded that Eemshaven will serve as the designated Port of Refuge for the distressed freighter Fremantle Highway.
The decision was made by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure & Water Management as Eemshaven is the most suitable port due to its closeness to the temporary anchorage (64 kilometers) as well as the existing infrastructure and the facilities that the port offers for the next steps in the salvage of the ship.
By keeping the towage journey as short as possible, the risks due to deteriorating weather conditions, for example, can be mitigated.
Towing of the Fremantle Highway to Eemshaven started this morning around 5 a.m., Rijkswaterstaat, a government agency overseeing water management, transportation infrastructure, and environmental protection in the Netherlands, said in the latest update.
The ship caught on fire on July 25, 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.
The fire prompted an evacuation of the 23 crew members. Regrettably, one crew member has been reported deceased.
“Of the 23 people on board (including pilots and ship supervisors), 22 were hospitalized, but 20 were discharged by July 30. The captain and pilot are still hospitalized and undergoing treatment,” Shoei Kisen, the owner of the vessel, said.
The fire-stricken vessel was towed to a temporary anchorage some 16 km above Schiermonnikoog and Ameland, as a move aimed at minimizing disruptions to other shipping traffic while the situation on board is assessed.
Local salvage companies Multraship and Smit Salvage are undertaking the salvage operation.
As the situation on board the cargo ship remains stable, extensive inspections have been conducted, revealing no indications of any ongoing fire onboard the Fremantle Highway.
“The situation on board the cargo ship is still stable. During the towing journey, experts are on board the Fremantle Highway to constantly monitor the vessel’s status. The Guardian of the Coast Guard and the oil response vessel Arca of Rijkswaterstaat will accompany the trip. The arrival time of the ship is strongly dependent on weather, current, and tide,” the agency said.
Once in port, the vessel will finally be able to unload its cargo.
Groningen Seaports, as the manager of Eemshaven, said it was taking proactive measures to minimize disruptions to daily activities in the port while providing essential support to the distressed vessel. The local companies in Eemshaven have been duly informed about the situation, and their cooperation is expected to facilitate a smooth and efficient response.
Collaborating with Rijkswaterstaat, the Groningen Security Region, and the Municipality of Het Hogeland, among other relevant entities, a concerted effort is underway to mitigate potential damages to people and the environment.
All stakeholders involved are diligently working to ensure that necessary safety protocols are followed, allowing the freighter to enter the port without further risk, the port authority said.
Rijkswaterstaat added that the owner of the ship remains responsible for the further handling of the cargo and everything that goes with it, while the agency will remain responsible for water quality.
“To be on the safe side, an oil conductive screen is placed around the ship to limit any contamination. Once the ship is moored at the quay, Rijkswaterstaat no longer has a role in the further handling of the incident,” the agency added.