A potential disaster was avoided as a burnt car carrier safely arrived at the port.
Over a week after a devastating fire engulfed a cargo ship carrying nearly 4,000 cars in the North Sea, the disabled vessel has been successfully towed to port in the northeast of the Netherlands.
The burned wreckage of the Fremantle Highway completed a 64km (40-mile) journey from a location north of the island of Schiermonnikoog to Eemshaven.
The ship had departed from Bremerhaven, Germany, en route to Egypt when the fire erupted on July 25th.
Tragically, one crew member lost their life in the blaze, while the other 22 crew members managed to survive, with seven of them resorting to jumping into the sea to escape. Most of the crew hailed from India.
The fire raged on the 200m-long Panamanian-registered Fremantle Highway for nearly a week, raising concerns about a potential environmental disaster in the waters of the Wadden Sea, which is designated as a World Heritage site on the periphery of the North Sea.
The Dutch coast guard stressed the cause of the fire on the 11-deck ship was unknown and authorities were careful not to speculate.
But an audio recording emerged of one rescue worker suggesting it had started in the battery of an electric vehicle and “it appears an electric vehicle exploded too”.
Of the 3,783 cars on board the ship, 498 were electric vehicles.
The fire started on an upper deck and salvage experts said that while four of the ship’s decks were relatively undamaged in the hull, the eighth deck had partly collapsed because of the intensity of the fire.
Two days ago the Dutch infrastructure agency said it believed the fire was finally out. At that point, authorities decided it should be brought into port as soon as possible because of imminent bad weather.
Local mayor Henk Jan Bolding said he understood the government’s decision to bring it to Eemshaven: “To avoid environmental disaster the ship had to be brought into a safe harbor and this was nearby.”
Harbormaster Pieter van der Wal, who’s head of seaports in the region, said there was immense relief that the ship was finally safe.
“We’ve ensured that the Wadden Sea and the Wadden Islands aren’t hit by pollution and we’re proud of that.”
Now that the ship is safely in port, salvage work can begin.