Fremantle Highway fire claims one, ship to be moved
23 Indian crew on board, 22 currently hospitalised and receiving treatment
The death of one crew member has been confirmed due to smoke on the car carrier Fremantle Highway chartered by Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha (K Line) which caught fire off the coast of The Netherlands.
"On the night of July 25 local time (early morning of July 26 Japan time), a fire occurred from the hold off the coast of the Netherlands, says the latest update from K Line. “According to the information from the ship owner at noon on July 28 Japan time, all 23 people were on board (including pilots and ship supervisors). Of these, 22 are currently reported to be hospitalised and receiving treatment.
"Regarding the fire situation, three salvage vessels arranged by the shipowners were on site on the morning of July 27 local time. We have arrived and are conducting firefighting and conservation activities under the command of the Dutch Coast Guard. About leaked oil, not confirmed yet."
Vessel type: Car carrier
Overall length/width: 199.97 metres/32.26 metres
Gross tonnage: 59,525 tonnes
Crew: 21 (Indians)
"Thanks to the reinforced towage connection, the Fremantle Highway can be towed to a new, temporary anchorage, as soon as smoke development and weather forecasts allow," says the latest update from the Dutch Coast Guard.
Fremantle Highway is reportedly carrying 3,000 vehicles on board, and "the coast guard said on its website the cause of the fire was unknown but a coast guard spokesperson had earlier told Reuters it began near an electric car. Roughly 25 out of 2,857 vehicles on the ship were electric." Around 350 of the vehicles on board were Mercedes-Benz cars, the German company said.
Fire 2nd cause of ships loss in 2022
Fire is the second top cause of loss of ships over the past year with eight vessels lost and more than 200 incidents reported – the highest for a decade, according to Allianz Safety & Shipping Review 2023.
"Transport of electric vehicles and battery-powered goods bring new fire risks. Larger vessels and mis-declaration of cargo amplify consequences."
While total losses declined over the past year, the number of shipping casualties or incidents reported remained consistent (3,032 in 2022 compared to 3,000 in 2021). "The British Isles saw the highest number (679). Machinery damage or failure accounted for close to half of all incidents globally (1,478). There were over 200 fires reported during 2022 (209) – the highest number for a decade, making this the third top cause of incidents globally, up 17% year-on-year."
One of the main hazards of Li-ion batteries is thermal runaway, a rapid self-heating fire that can cause an explosion, the report added. "The main causes of Li-ion fires are substandard manufacturing or damaged battery cells or devices, over-charging and short-circuiting. Fires in EVs with Li-ion batteries are difficult to extinguish and capable of spontaneously reigniting."
Captain Rahul Khanna, Global Head, Marine Risk Consulting, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty says: “Most ships lack the suitable protection, detection and firefighting capabilities to tackle such fires at sea. Attention must focus both on pre-emptive measures and emergency plans to help mitigate this peril such as adequate crew training and access to appropriate firefighting equipment or improving early detection systems. Purpose-built vessels for transporting EVs would be advantageous.”
Analysis of close to 250,000 marine insurance industry claims shows that fire was also the most expensive cause of loss, accounting for 18 percent of the value of all claims analysed, the update added.
(Video Credit: Dutch Coast Guard)