A CREWMEMBER is dead and several others injured after a car carrier caught fire off the Dutch coast.

The Panama-flagged Fremantle Highway (IMO 9667344) was sailing from Germany to Egypt (en route to Singapore) on Tuesday night (25 July) when a fire broke out on board.

The ship was off the coast of the Netherlands at the time, carrying 2857 cars, including around 25 electric vehicles.

Shoei Kisen Kaisha, the owner of the vessel, said in a statement on Wednesday there were 21 Indian crewmembers on board, one of whom had been confirmed dead.

The shipowner said it was working with local authorities, rescuers and Wallem Shipmanagement to extinguish the fire.

“The situation is extremely difficult,” Shoei Kisen wrote (according to a translation of the statement).

“We will continue to do our utmost to extinguish the fire and work to resolve the situation as soon as possible.

“Although there is no information on oil pollution due to this accident, one crew member has been confirmed dead. I pray for the repose of the souls of the deceased sailors.”

A report from Reuters, quoting the Dutch coastguard and other authorities, said several seafarers had jumped overboard to escape the blaze.

“The fire is most definitely still not controlled,” Edwin Versteeg, a spokesperson for the Dutch Department of Waterways and Public Works (quoted by Reuters).

“It’s a very hard fire to extinguish, possibly because of the cargo the ship was transporting.”

Reuters noted the coastguard had written on its website that the cause of the fire was unknown, but a coastguard spokesperson had earlier told the news service it began near an electric car.

David Appleton, head of professional and technical at Nautilus International, said the maritime trade union had been flagging concerns around the increase carriage lithium batteries.

“Nautilus … have been working closely through the UK’s National Maritime Occupational Health and Safety Committee and through the Merchant Navy Training Board to develop guidance and training for seafarers on the risks of lithium-ion battery fires,” Mr Appleton said.

“However, efforts to mitigate these risks are hampered by the fact that there are currently no methods or procedures to extinguish a lithium-ion battery fire once it takes hold that have been demonstrated as safe for seafarers to carry out onboard.

“This tragic incident highlights the need for research in this area to be carried out with the utmost urgency so that effective procedures for dealing with these fires onboard can be put in place.”

Fremantle Highway is is 199.97 meters long (LOA) and was built in 2013. Vessel traffic services indicate the ship was en route from Bremerhaven to Port Said when the fire broke out.

Around 350 of the vehicles were Mercedes-Benz cars.