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Fremantle Highway Fire: ship carrying 3,000 cars burns off Dutch coast

The fire killed one sailor with the rest of the crew safely rescued. An electric car is believed to be the source of the blaze. 

An electric car is thought to have sparked a fatal fire aboard a ship carrying almost 3,000 vehicles from the German port of Bremen to Port Said in Egypt.

The 18,500-ton Fremantle Highway is carrying 2,857 cars, including just 25 electric vehicles. The blaze started as the ship passed near to the Dutch coast, and fire fighters are still battling the flames.

According to Dutch coast guard spokeswoman Lea Versteeg, the incident claimed the life of one sailor. The remaining 22 crew have been rescued although there have been injuries, with seven having to jump into the water to escape. 

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The spokeswoman also claimed it was likely one of the electric cars on board had caused the fire. While the lithium-ion batteries used in electric and hybrid cars are generally much safer than the flammable liquids used in petrol and diesel vehicles, they can easily combust if damaged by an accident or fire from another car. Once burning they are difficult to extinguish as the chemical reactions inside the battery can create extreme temperatures.

boat on fire

Dutch coastguard

Salvage experts and fire fighters are directing hoses at the ship in an attempt to cool the hull and prevent the blaze spreading. The vessel has also been towed away from a site of ecological sensitivity.

Fires aboard car carrying vessels are relatively common. Last year the Felicity Ace sank near the Azore Islands while carrying a cargo of supercars. There was no loss of life, but nearly 4,000 new cars from Porsche, Audi, Bentley, Volkswagen and Lamborghini met a watery end. 

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