Netherlands: Cargo towing begins five days after the start of the fire

The Fremantle Highway, on fire off the coast of the Netherlands, is being “slowly and controlledly towed” since Sunday, announced the authorities, who specified that the fire on board had “considerably” reduced in intensity. The cargo ship will be moved to a temporary location.

The towing of the cargo ship on fire off the coast of the Netherlands, with thousands of cars on board, had been delayed due to the wind. The movement of the Fremantle Highway “began in the early afternoon” on Sunday, July 30, nearly five days after the start of the blaze, announced the Dutch National Institute for the Management of Water (Rijkswaterstaat), in a statement.

It specified that “there was considerably less smoke this afternoon” on the Panamanian-flagged cargo ship that transports, according to the transport company K Line that chartered the ship, 3783 new cars, including 498 electric vehicles.

The cargo ship will be moved to a new temporary location: 16 km north of the islands of Schiermonnikoog and Ameland, a few dozen kilometers east of its last official position, 18 km north of Terschelling.

These Dutch islands are located between the Wadden Sea, a UNESCO world heritage site with a diversity of more than 10,000 aquatic and terrestrial species, and the North Sea.

A towing under high surveillance

An oil intervention boat is nearby, according to the authorities who hope to eventually tow the cargo ship to a port to avoid an ecological disaster.

The cargo ship is being “slowly and controlledly towed (about three knots, 5.5 km/h) by two tugboats,” the Rijkswaterstaat said.

The towing scheduled for Saturday was postponed due to a southwest wind that “sucked” the smoke above the tugboat, posing a risk to the crew’s health.

“The stability of the ship is constantly monitored,” insisted the Rijkswaterstaat, which had previously stated that the cargo ship was intact below the waterline.

The duration of the towing depends on “weather conditions, smoke development, current, and tide”. The operation had previously been estimated to take about 14 hours.

The 18,500-ton cargo ship had left the German port of Bremerhaven to reach Port Said in Egypt before continuing on to Singapore, its final destination. The cause of the fire, which occurred on Wednesday night, is unknown, but one of the electric cars on board could be the origin. One of the 23 crew members evacuated has died, and several others have been injured.

Operations to extinguish the fire were suspended on Thursday to prevent the ship from being destabilized by the amount of water entering.


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