Salvage of Fire-Damaged Fremantle Highway Car Carrier Moves to Rotterdam

Fremantle Highway
Fremantle Highway escorted by the tug En Avant 25 arriving in Rotterdam for the second phase of the salvage operation (MULLER Dordrecht photos)

Published Oct 2, 2023 2:02 PM by The Maritime Executive

The next phase of the salvage operation for the fire-damaged car carrier Fremantle Highway is now underway. Regulators are continuing their investigation to determine the cause of the fire that destroyed or damaged as many as 2,800 vehicles and the top decks of the vessel while a plan for her salvage is also being prepared.

In a rather unusual move, KOOLE Contractors, an international industrial and maritime service company based in the Netherlands that specializes in industrial demolition, remediation, wreck removal, and maritime construction, has taken control of the Fremantle Highway. KOOLE also gained visibility recently as the company carried out the salvage and removal of the wreck of the OS 35 bulker that sunk off Gibraltar. They recently completed the transfer of the two sections of the wreck from Gibraltar to the Netherlands where it will undergo green recycling.

KOOLE reportedly made an agreement with the Japanese owners of the Fremantle Highway taking ownership and overseeing the second stage of the salvage efforts. They have formed a team that is carrying out structural inspections to determine which sections of the ship need to be removed and replaced due to the fire. Reports are that sections of the structure from decks 5 to 12 were weakened by the extreme heat of the fire but that the lower decks and machinery spaces were undamaged. 

As part of developing the plan for the Fremantle Highway, the team from KOOLE also plans to further inspect the tanks to determine what remains aboard the ship. Media reports from the Netherlands indicate that the teams are also surveying the remaining damaged vehicles and they expect to make a plan to continue to remove debris from the vessel. 


(MULLER Dordrecht photo)


After the hulk was towed into Eemshaven as a port of refuge as designated by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, SMIT and Multraship undertook the initial salvage operation. They removed as many as 1,000 undamaged cars from the lower decks as well as vehicles that had experienced fire damage but were structurally intact. Additional debris in the form of cars that melted into the upper decks remains aboard the ship. The companies reported at the beginning of September that they had handed the ship back to its owners.

Shoei Kisen Kaisha, a subsidiary of the Japanese shipyard Imabari, which built the ship in 2013, was the commercial manager of the Fremantle Highway. The ship was operated under charter by K-Line, while Wallem Shipmanagement was the technical manager. Under the agreement. KOOLE is preparing the salvage plan which will likely remove the damaged portions of the superstructure and prepare the ship for the next phase. KOOLE will handle the resale of the vessel with the new owners undertaking any reconstruction.

KOOLE has rented a dock from Damen Shiprepair in Rotterdam where the next phase of the survey work is underway. The vessel was towed from Eemshaven on September 21 by three tugs and arrived two days later in Rotterdam. The vessel needed to be moved from the pier in Eemshaven which has been rented as of mid-October to a cruise ship.

Teams from the Port of Rotterdam and DCMR Environmental Service Rijnmond, the environmental service of the province of South Holland and thirteen municipalities in the Rijnmond region, boarded the vessel to undertake an initial inspection after it reached Rotterdam. They have given environmental clearance and a plan is now being developed for the next phase of the salvage operation. KOOLE will submit its plans to the Dutch regulators for approval and media reports are that the vessel could enter a dry dock at Damen Shipyards Botlek in early October.