New Delhi: A fire broke out on a car carrier ship carrying nearly 3,000 vehicles in the North Sea off the coast of the Netherlands on Wednesday, killing one crew member and injuring 20 others.
The Fremantle Highway, an 18,500-tonne vessel managed by Japanese company Shoei Kisen Kaisha, was en route to Singapore from Germany when the blaze started around 4 a.m. local time.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but some reports suggest it may have originated from one of the 25 electric cars on board.
The fire spread rapidly, forcing some of the 23 crew members to jump overboard into the cold water. They were rescued by nearby ships and helicopters and taken to hospitals for treatment.
The coastguard said the fire was still burning as of Thursday afternoon and could last for days. The ship was towed away from shipping lanes and closer to an archipelago of ecologically sensitive islands in the Waddensee area.
Authorities are concerned about the potential environmental impact of the fire and the cargo, which includes 2,857 cars, mostly Mercedes-Benz models.
The Indian Embassy in the Netherlands said in a social media post that one Indian national died due to the fire on the ship. In a tweet on Wednesday, the embassy said, “We are deeply saddened by the incident involving the vessel Fremantle Highway in the North Sea, in which one Indian national was killed and several crew members were injured.” The embassy said it is in touch with the family of the deceased and is assisting in repatriating the mortal remains of the deceased.
Shoei Kisen Kaisha said it was cooperating with the Dutch authorities to extinguish the fire and prevent further damage.
This is not the first time a car carrier ship has caught fire in recent years. In 2019, the Golden Ray capsized off the coast of Georgia, USA, with more than 4,000 vehicles on board. In 2018, the Grande Costa d’Avorio caught fire near France with 2,210 vehicles on board. And in 2017, the Felicity Ace burned for days in the Pacific Ocean with 1,527 vehicles on board.