Stricken cargo ship arrives in Eemshaven for salvage operation

The Fremantle Highway arriving in Eemshaven. Photo: Vincent Jannick

The burnt-out car freighter Fremantle Highway arrived in Eemshaven in northern Groningen early on Thursday afternoon and will remain in the port until October 14 at the latest.

The ship, which was stricken by a fire in the hold where almost 4,000 cars were being transported, was towed to the port by tugs, after spending a couple of days anchored off the Wadden Sea island of Schiermonnikoog. 

Several dozen people turned out to watch the ship arrive. “The crew who jumped into the sea must have been terrified,” said one. “When you see how high it is, it must have been like jumping off a block of flats.”

The ship had a crew of 23 when the fire broke out last Tuesday. One person was killed by smoke but the rest were either lifted to safety or pulled out of the sea. All have now been released from hospital. 

The ship was brought to Eemshaven because it was close and has facilities to deal with the aftermath of the blaze and any new fires. “Nothing leaked but if that does happen, it can be dealt with very quickly,” transport ministry spokesman Carlo Eijkels told broadcaster NOS. 

The department has not gone into details about what will happen next but the ship is likely to be inspected and the salvage company will look into how to remove the almost 4,000 vehicles from the hold. 

“It is up to the owner what he wants to do with the cargo,” the department said. “But you can imagine that after such a fire, there is not much left.”

The ship was carrying 3,784 new cars including almost 500 electric vehicles. US economist Patrick Anderson has put the damage at some €300 million. 

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