Cargo Ship Carrying 3,000 Cars Is Ablaze in North Sea, EV Suspected as Cause
Only a handful of vehicles onboard are electric, however an early statement may indicate an EV is to blame for the fire.
The 650-foot Panama-flagged Fremantle Highway car carrier is on fire off the coast of Denmark. One crew member died as a result of the incident, the rest of the ship's 23-member roster has been rescued. Most sustained injuries, with some jumping overboard to avoid the rapidly-spreading flames.
The ship is carrying 3,857 vehicles. Of those, 25 are electric. An exact cause of the fire has not been established as of writing. Early reporting by Reuters states that the blaze began "near" an electric car. It's plausible a different vehicle caused the fire, however, we have few statements to work with. Other reporting by Electrek, who spoke to the Dutch coast guard as well as Reuters, states it received a statement which indicated any exact cause of the fire at this time is difficult to determine. The ship is still burning as of writing.
Electric vehicles are no more likely to catch fire than their combustion-engined counterparts, but the manner in which they catch fire can be unpredictable. Damage to a single cell, which may not necessarily be the result of any mechanical stress, can cause it to go into thermal runaway. The resulting intense heat can spread to other cells in the pack, which can catch fire and burn aggressively. EV fires are especially difficult to put out and, as we've found recently with electric truck builder Nikola, they may reignite suddenly.
A Dutch Department of Waterways and Public Works spokesperson told Reuters that the fire is not under control by any means, though water is being sprayed on the side of the ship to keep it stable. A tug has also been able to secure a cable to the vessel to prevent it from drifting into important shipping lanes. The area in which it is burning, the Frisian islands, is considered ecologically sensitive. If the ship sank in this area, it could be devastating to local wildlife. It has already been devastating for the vessel's crew.
Salvage experts are still working out what to do next in terms of stabilizing the ship. Loaded with cars full of flammable materials, it could burn for days.
Several major car carrier fires have broken out recently. Just this month, two New Jersey firefighters were killed after a vessel, carrying 1,200 new and used vehicles, caught fire in Port Newark. The well-known Felicity Ace likewise caught fire a little over a year ago. There were no fatalities as a result of the incident, however, nearly 4,000 new and used cars, including the final Lamborghini Aventadors, were lost when it sank.
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