Salvage Completed on Fire-Damaged Car Carrier Fremantle Highway

Fremantle Highway salvage
The salvage was completed removing all of the possible car and debris from the fire-damaged ship (Netherlands Ministry of Defense)

Published Sep 8, 2023 6:32 PM by The Maritime Executive

The salvage operation to remove cars and debris from the fire-damaged car carrier Fremantle Highway has been completed. It is thought that as many as 1,000 vehicles may have been removed mostly from the lower decks of the ship and many appeared undamaged while others were burnt and at least one caught fire on the dock.

“We have returned the ship to the owner,” a spokesperson for Boskalis which was leading the salvage operation with Multraship told Dutch media today. The salvage companies reported that the operation went mostly without incident and that they had done as much as possible.

Boskalis acknowledged that at least one car thought to be electric caught fire while it was being removed from the ship. Images appeared on Dutch TV of a Mercedes-Benz, likely an EQE Sedan or EQS (they look the same at a distance) being hoisted off the ship. While it looks fine it is lowered into a steel bin and firefighters can be seen spraying water into the bin and steam rises. They then cover the bin with a tarp to cut off oxygen to the fire – a standard method accepted for fighting battery fires on EVs.


TV images showing one of the smoldering cars placed into the bin


A Boskalis spokesperson told the Dutch media the company had been prepared for all the risks including the possibility of some of the cars starting to burn. Experts are saying the batteries were likely overheated and removing the cars from the enclosed spaces permitted them to overheat and start burning.

During the salvage operation, all the cars were washed to remove any chemicals or residue from the fire before they came off the ship. TV images showed apparently undamaged gasoline-powered cars or possibly hybrids being driven off the ship through a side ramp. Others damaged in the fire or possibly the EVs were being hoisted off by crane. The cars were being placed in a secure lot on the dock for insurers to determine their fate while the wash water was contained on the ship for proper disposal.

While the fire is still officially listed as under investigation, the trade Automobilwoche contends the preliminary survey and report say apparently the fire was not caused by electric cars. The manifest showed there were 498 electric vehicles and hybrids and a total of 3,784 vehicles including some heavy equipment in addition to cars.

The trades are reporting from the images and information they can glean that the largest number were from BMW, which may have had more than 1,000 vehicles abroad. Cars being transported to the destination which was Singapore included MINIs, Rolls-Royce, Porsche, and maybe a small number from the Volkswagen group. The lower decks were less impacted, while cars on the upper decks were reportedly heavily charred and many melted into the decks. Portions of the decks are reported to have been weakened in the fire to make them unsafe for access now.

It is unclear what the vessel’s owners, Shoei Kisen Kaisha and charterer K Line plan for the ship. The Dutch media reports the ship is expected to remain for the next few weeks in the ports of Eemshaven, but port executives are saying it must leave by October 14. The berth where she is sitting reportedly has been promised to a cruise ship, likely the Carnival Jubilee, which is due to make the conveyance from Meyer Werft in Papenburg and will be completed before handover to Carnival Cruise Line.