Unauthorized Salvage Photos of Fremantle Highway Leaked to the Press

Freemantle Highway salvage
Fremantle Highway is being stabilized at the pier in Eemshaven (Netherlands Ministry of Defense)

Published Aug 15, 2023 2:31 PM by The Maritime Executive

Salvage teams and investigators are still working to develop plans and unravel the origins of the fire aboard the car carrier as Fremantle Highway as a new mystery emerges: who leaked photos from aboard the vessel? Executives from the salvage companies said the photos published by the Dutch news outlet RTL Nieuws were not authorized or released and they would be investigating their origins.

Executives from Boskalis speaking with the media said they believed the photos were taken possibly by an insurance adjuster or possibly an inspector working for the vessel’s owner. The photos showed some of the extent of the damage inside the vessel, warping to the decks, and the burnout car frames. 

The photos were also posted to social media by a German politician as part of a campaign to increase the safety regulations for the shipment of electric vehicles. Andreas Mrosek in his posting speculated on the dangers and pointed out the problems if there was a fire aboard a car ferry and the challenge of evacuating 200 passengers. He joins with others in Germany and the German media which has been leading calls for stricter regulations on the shipment of EVs.



Boskalis which has team members from SMIT working on the salvage operation along with Multraship reports that good progress is being made in the first stage of the salvage effort while no final plan has yet been developed. They said today, Tuesday, August 15, they expect to complete the pumping of all the bunker fuel on the ship. The ship was stabilized with ballast water. Last week they had said a new crew was coming from the Japanese owners to help run systems in the intact engine room.

They emphasized that sections of the ship are very badly damaged with the decks having become unstable. In places the fire was so hot they said the car frames fused to the deck. Elsewhere on the lower decks, the cars appear to be undamaged but during the interview, Boskalis emphasized there is no decision to offload any cars. They said temperatures still raised the concern of another fire starting if they attempt to remove any of the cars.

The executives questioned the speculation that the fire began with one of the electric cars. They noted that a large number of EVs are intact on the lower decks and the speed at which the fire subsided and was put out is inconsistent with EV battery fires. They said they would not be providing details but that insurance experts would rule on the cause of the fire.

The need to vacate the pier in Eemshaven, the Netherlands, where the vessel is by mid-October is also a concern for proceeding with the salvage operation. For the time being, they are stabilizing the ship and reducing the risks while working with the investigators and teams from the insurance companies as the inspections proceed.