One crew member has died after a fire ignited on a Japanese ship reportedly transporting 2857 vehicles, including 25 electric cars.
The Netherlands Coast Guard reports it received a call of a fire on the main deck of the Japanese-owned Fremantle Highway shortly before midnight (local time) on Tuesday the 25th of July.
It’s positioned 27km north of Ameland, The Netherlands in the Wadden Sea, which in 2014 was declared by UNESCO a world heritage site.
De Telegraaf reports the vessel began its journey from Bremen, Germany and was bound for Port Said in Egypt before embarking for its final destination of Singapore.
Dutch news outlet NOS reports the vessel is owned by Japan’s Shoei Kisen and operated by K Line.
It’s suspected the cause of the fire was an electric vehicle, according to both the coast guard and the Japanese company.
“But we are not entirely sure of the cause, we are waiting for the investigation,” a company spokesperson told NOS.
A total of 300 Mercedes-Benz vehicles were on board.
According to De Telegraaf Ford and Nissan have confirmed none of their vehicles were on board the vessel, while Renault, Stellantis and Toyota have said none of their vehicles are likely to be on board.
Rescue efforts began almost immediately, as coast guard helicopters co-ordinated efforts with the local fire brigade to reach the vessel.
According to the coast guard, the vessel contained 23 crew members. Indian consulate officials have confirmed via social media it was in touch with 20 Indian nationals who were crew members on the ship.
The consulate also confirmed the sole casualty of the incident was an Indian national.
According to NOS, the crew member died on board a coast guard lifeboat.
Reuters reports seven crew members were rescued after jumping overboard to escape the flames while the remaining crew onboard the vessel was evacuated shortly after.
“There was lot of smoke and the fire spread quickly, much faster than expected,” said Willard Molenaar of the Royal Dutch Rescue Company (KNRM), to Reuters.
“The people on board had to get off quickly … We fished them out of the water,”
The coast guard reports the crew members were taken to Lauwersoog and Eelde airport where they were taken into the care of paramedics.
NOS reports the crew members were receiving treatment for breathing problems, burns and broken bones. No remaining crew members are in a serious condition.
According to the coast guard, a recovery vessel called the Hunter was able to establish an “emergency connection” to keep the ship in place.
The coast guard confirmed ships called the Guardian and Nordic joined the Hunter to help cool the sides of the ship in an effort to prevent the ship from sinking as result of water on the main deck.
“There is no extinguishing on the ship itself, nor from the water on top of the ship,” Edwin Granneman of the Coast Guard told NOS.
“We deliberately did not do that. The moment you spray all the water into the ship, it can have an effect on the stability. The ship can then tilt.”
According to NOS, the coast guard said the fire is not yet extinguished and “could take days or even weeks” to be put out. A no-fly zone has been established.
TradeWinds estimates the total inventory value of the hull could be as much as US$78.5 million (AU$115 million).
It’s unclear what will happen next. The ship could sink, it could be towed away provided the fire is safely extinguished, or the ship could continue to burn out which will then allow for salvage efforts to occur.
The latter could take weeks, if the Felicity Ace fire is any example. The ship carrying Volkswagen, Porsche, Audi and Lamborghini was on fire for 13 days.
As a result of the fire, it sparked production to restart of the Lamborghini Aventador in order to replace the destroyed vehicles.
Image credit: The Netherlands Coast Guard