Towing begins of cargo ship ablaze off Dutch coast


THE HAGUE: Towing began on Sunday of a cargo ship packed with electric cars that went up in flames off the Dutch coast following delays due to weather conditions, authorities said, racing to prevent an ecological disaster.

Movement of the smouldering Fremantle Highway — with nearly 500 electric vehicles on board — began in the last afternoon, early five days after the blaze began, the national water management agency Rijkswaterstaat said.

The ship is slowly being towed some 16-km north of the islands Schiermonnikoog and Ameland, a few dozen kilometres from its last official position.

Saturday´s attempt to salvage the ship was postponed due to high winds that engulfed the rescuing tug in smoke, posing health and safety risks for the crew.

“There was considerably less smoke on the cargo ship this afternoon,” the government agency said, adding the vessel´s stability was constantly being monitored following concerns of it sinking. The tow could take up to 14 hours depending on weather conditions, smoke and the tide. The cause of the fire that broke out late on Tuesday remains unclear, although the vessel´s owner has said one of the electric vehicles on board may have been the source.

The Fremantle Highway was located in the Wadden Sea at the time of the blaze, raising concerns about the impact of pollutants on the waters and nearby archipelago of ecologically sensitive islands.


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