A burnt-out car carrier Fremantle Highway, which was carrying thousands of cars, has been towed to the northern Dutch port of Eemshaven more than a week after catching fire at sea, averting a feared environmental disaster.

Tugs brought the vessek into Eemshaven after a journey from a holding position. One sailor died and 22 were rescued after the Panamanian-flagged ship, carrying 3,783 new cars, including 498 electric vehicles, caught fire off the Dutch coast on 25 July.

Following the incident, several maritime units and the Maritime Incident Response Group (MIRG) were dispatched to the site. Two coast guard helicopters flew to Rotterdam to transport the firefighting team to the vessel in question, and once at the site helped to evacuate the affected crew.

The blaze had raised the spectre of an ecological disaster on the nearby Wadden chain of islands, a Unesco world heritage site spanning the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark.

The situation was largely under control for several days, but bad weather in the North Sea raised concerns the vessel could leak oil or even sink while being towed to port. It had previously been anchored at a holding position ten miles north of the islands of Schiermonnikoog and Ameland, where it had been towed during Sunday and Monday.

A specialised boat for cleaning up oil spills remained near Fremantle Highway throughout the journey. The cause of the fire remains unclear, although the vessel’s owner has said it may have been one of the electric vehicles on board.

Some crew members were forced to jump overboard from significant heights after the fire broke out, and a number were taken to hospital.

Image: Kustwacht-nl/Dutch Coast Guard

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