The cargo ship Fremantle Highway caught fire around midnight Tuesday evening off the Netherlands’ coast. It was carrying nearly 3,000 cars. The ship was heading from Germany to Egypt when the fire started, allegedly igniting near an unspecified electric vehicle.
The crew attempted to extinguish the fire but failed. Seven members had to jump overboard to escape the quickly spreading flames, according to Reuters. Several were injured, suffering burns, broken bones, and breathing problems, and one crew member died in the blaze. Rescuers have removed all 23 crew members from the ship.
A Dutch Coast Guard spokesperson told the publication that the fire had started near an electric vehicle, but its source still hasn’t been confirmed. The Dutch Coast Guard lists the cause of the fire as “unknown” on its website. According to De Telegraaf, the ship was carrying 2,857 cars, 25 of which were electric vehicles. Mercedes-Benz told Automotive News Europe that it had about 350 cars on board.
Earlier this morning, the Dutch Coast Guard reported that the situation on board remained unchanged, with the fire still raging. A rescue ship, Hunter, is keeping the Fremantle in place and out of shipping lanes as authorities formulate a plan to extinguish the fire without sinking the imperiled ship. Rescue ships sprayed water on the Fremantle’s exterior to keep it cool.
Dutch Department of Waterways and Public Works spokesperson Edwin Versteeg told Reuters, “It’s a very hard fire to extinguish, possibly because of the cargo the ship was transporting.” The ship was about 17 miles north of the Dutch island of Ameland when the fire started.
The Fremantle Highway, registered in Panama, is managed by the Japanese ship leasing company Shoei Kisen, which is working with authorities on the matter. The ship was built in 2013 and is designated as a vehicle carrier, measuring 656 feet (200 meters) long.
The Fremantle Highway isn’t the only cargo ship carrying cars to catch fire recently. In 2022, the Felicity Ace caught fire in the Atlantic Ocean. It was carrying an estimated $401 million worth of vehicles that would end up at the bottom of the ocean when the ship sank, taking models from Volkswagen, Porsche, Bentley, Audi, and Lamborghini.
The incident forced Lamborghini to restart Aventador production to replace the destroyed supercars. We’ll likely learn more about Fremantle Highway’s cargo and the cause of the fire in the coming days as authorities attempt to save the ship before it sinks.