A cargo ship carrying nearly 3,000 vehicles is in danger of sinking off the coast of the Netherlands after a fire believed to be caused by an electric vehicle ignited on the vessel.
The ship caught fire in the North Sea just before midnight Tuesday about 17 miles north of the Dutch Island of Ameland.
The fire spread so quickly that seven crew members were forced to jump overboard, according to Willard Molenaar who works at the Royal Dutch Rescue Company (KNRM), which was one of the first responders.
He added that some were injured making the jump into the water, while one crew member died in the flames. “There was lot of smoke and the fire spread quickly, much faster than expected,” he said. “The people on board had to get off quickly. … We fished them out of the water.”
Rescue crews evacuated 23 crew members using boats and helicopters.
The owner of the ship, which is registered in Panama and was carrying about 25 electric vehicles, told a local broadcaster there was a “good chance that the fire started with electric cars,” according to The Guardian.
A cargo ship packed with nearly 3,000 cars is still ablaze close to a world-renowned bird habitat off the Dutch coast. https://t.co/GuifcLjm0t
— The Associated Press (@AP) July 27, 2023
The Dutch Coast Guard has been using water to put out the fire, but extinguishing the fire is difficult because too much water on the ship can impact its stability, according to AFP.
“Later this morning, Coast Guard planes will again fly over the Fremantle Highway to observe the situation,” the Coast Guard said Thursday, as reported by AFP.
The International Maritime Organization, which regulates safety standards at sea, says it is planning to evaluate new measures for cargo ships transporting electric vehicles, following an increased number of fires on the vessels, Reuters reported.
“Electric cars burn just as much as combustion engine cars. When batteries overheat and a so-called ‘thermal runaway’ occurs, then it gets dangerous,” Uwe-Peter Schieder, master mariner and representative of the German Insurance Association, told Reuters. “A chemical reaction in the battery produces gases which inflate the battery.”
Multiple manufacturers have now issued recalls of their electric vehicles over the risk of fire.
General Motors’ recall covered 142,000 of its two Bolt models sold since 2017, which Chevrolet also recalled battery-electric vehicles, and Hyundai expanded a similar callback covering roughly 90,000 of its Kona EVs, Forbes reported. Additionally, Ford recalled more than 20,000 plug-in hybrids in Europe, due to the risk of catching fire.