After the fire on the car cargo ship ‘Fremantle Highway’ off the Dutch coast, many popular media hastily identified an electric car as the cause. Now it turns out that this is untrue.
Many publications used the fire accident to highlight the (real) difficulties of extinguishing a fire on an EV. Still, they immediately concluded that EVs are catching fire much more frequently.
Cause of fire still unknown
Even though the cause of the fire is still unknown, the EV theory no longer holds up after the freighter was inspected in the port of Groningen.
The lower four of the twelve decks are essentially undamaged, and about 1 000 cars standing there, including the 498 electric ones, are in good condition. This is according to the chief of the salvage company Royal Boskalis Westminster NV, Peter Berdowski.
On the contrary, Berdowski also said that the four uppermost decks, on which there were no electric cars, are so damaged that it is hard to walk on them and that the vehicles there are fused to the ground. The affected carmakers are now investigating how their cars can be moved.
Even now, it is still unclear if other electrified vehicles were on board the ship. Plug-in hybrids, for example, also have a large battery pack that is not so easy to put out when it has caught fire. But that doesn’t mean the fire started with them.
The ‘Fremantle Highway’ is currently docked in Eemshaven, the port of Groningen, north of the Netherlands. At the end of July, the ship took fire in the North Sea, just outside the ‘Wadden Islands’ Ameland and Terschelling.
Soon, the heavy fuel oil will be pumped out of the ship to prevent leakage and environmental pollution. The ‘Fremantle Highway’ can remain in the port until 14 October. Then it will have to be towed to another location – whether for repair or scrapping is unknown.
Big fires like this can be prevented
“Big fires like the one on the Fremantle Highway can be prevented if the right fire extinguishing system is installed on board,” said Cor Meedendorp, CEO of FIFI4Marine, on the Dutch news radio BNR. His company is specialized in fighting lithium fires on board ships.
The company has also started to install the same fire extinguishing systems in large car parks where electric cars are parked and charged. FIFI4Marine developed an automated fire extinguishing system that uses bio-foam. “It’s PFAS-free, there are no toxic fumes, and normally the fire is put out before it gets uncontrollable,” Meedendorp adds.
“Installing such a system on big ships implies major investments. Shipping companies don’t want to invest millions of euros on all their ships. They prefer to pay a slightly higher insurance premium and ‘just accept’ that a fire can occur once every ten years on one of their vessels,” Meedendorp concludes.