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Car Transport Ship Fire Threatens Dutch Coastline

Authorities are currently engaged in a fierce battle against a lethal inferno onboard a car carrier ship situated off the coast of the Netherlands. This has raised concerns about potential ecological harm to the nearby delicate island chain.

The ship in question, named the Fremantle Highway, was transporting a cargo of electric vehicles. A coastguard official stated that they were investigating the possibility that the fire originated from one of these electric vehicles.

The emergency response teams received an alert shortly after midnight (at 2200 GMT on Tuesday), notifying them of the fire outbreak on the Panamanian-registered vessel, which was carrying approximately 3,000 vehicles. The ship was located around 14.5 nautical miles off the northern Dutch island of Ameland.

Thankfully, all 23 crew members were successfully evacuated from the ship using helicopters and a boat. Tragically, one person lost their life, and several others sustained injuries in the incident.

During the evacuation process, at least seven crew members were forced to jump into the water but were subsequently rescued, while the remaining crew members were airlifted via helicopter.

The Fremantle Highway, an 18,500-tonne car carrier, was en route between Bremerhaven in Germany and Port Said in Egypt when the blaze ignited, as per information from the website.

Despite efforts to contain it, the fire is still spreading on the vessel, which is also listing at the moment, according to the latest update from the coastguard.

Adding to the concern, the ship is currently close to Ameland, which is one of the ecologically sensitive Frisian islands in the Waddensee area, situated just north of the Dutch mainland. The region, also known as the Frisian Islands, has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, boasting an impressive biodiversity comprising more than 10,000 aquatic and terrestrial species. The potential environmental risk posed by the fire has authorities on high alert as they work to address the situation and safeguard the delicate ecosystem.

Over 140 species of fish, with approximately 20 of them spending their entire lives in the tidal areas along the renowned mud flats of the Frisian islands, could be at risk due to the ongoing blaze on the Fremantle Highway.

The region is also home to a significant population of seals and porpoises, further highlighting the potential environmental consequences if the ship were to sink. The daily tabloid De Telegraaf emphasized that such an outcome would be a catastrophic disaster.

Currently, salvage vessels are actively attempting to extinguish the fire and prevent the vessel from going under. Specialized firefighters from Rotterdam were called to the scene but couldn’t be safely brought on board due to the rapid development of the fire.

A tug vessel, however, managed to secure a cable to the stricken ship, averting the risk of it drifting and obstructing a crucial shipping route to Germany.

Authorities are cautiously considering all scenarios in their response to the situation, as the potential cause of the fire is believed to be related to one of the 25 electric vehicles on board.

The injured sailors, who suffered from breathing problems, were promptly taken to the northern towns of Lauwersoog and Eelde, where they received medical attention, though none were in serious danger.

Multiple parties, including salvagers and Dutch authorities, are actively collaborating to minimize the damage to the greatest extent possible, according to the Coast Guard.

The area had previously experienced a significant incident in early 2019 when around 340 containers fell off one of the world’s largest container ships during a storm, resulting in the pollution of kilometers of pristine coastline with plastic and polystyrene.

The Dutch coast has also witnessed a tragic event in December 2012 when the Bahamian-flagged car carrier Baltic Ice collided with a container ship, leading to the loss of eleven sailors’ lives.

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