Crews begin towing cargo ship ablaze off coast of Netherlands

Crews begin towing cargo ship ablaze off coast of Netherlands

Towing began Sunday of a cargo ship packed with electric cars that went up in flames off the Dutch coast following delays due to weather conditions, authorities said, racing to prevent an ecological disaster.

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Smoke rises from the car carrier ship Fremantle Highway in this handout photograph taken on July 29, 2023.

Smoke rises from the car carrier ship Fremantle Highway in this handout photograph taken on July 29, 2023. © AFP

Movement of the smouldering Fremantle Highway – with nearly 500 electric vehicles on board – began in the last afternoon, early five days after the blaze began, the national water management agency Rijkswaterstaat said. 

The ship is slowly being towed some 16 kilometres north of the Dutch islands Schiermonnikoog and Ameland, a few dozen kilometres from its last official position. 

Saturday’s attempt to salvage the ship was postponed due to high winds that engulfed the rescuing tug in smoke, posing health and safety risks for the crew. 

“There was considerably less smoke on the cargo ship this afternoon,” the government agency said, adding the vessel’s stability was constantly being monitored following concerns of it sinking. 

The tow could take up to 14 hours depending on weather conditions, smoke and the tide. 

The cause of the fire that broke out late Tuesday remains unclear, although the vessel’s owner has said one of the electric vehicles on board may have been the source. 

The Fremantle Highway was located in the Wadden Sea at the time of the blaze, raising concerns about the impact of pollutants on the waters and nearby archipelago of ecologically sensitive islands.

One sailor died after he and 22 others were rescued from the burning ship that had forced some crew members to jump overboard.

(AFP)

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