The massive roll-on, roll-off ship ablaze off the Dutch coast is transporting 500 electric vehicles. The ship's total cargo is around 3,800 vehicles, some of which are BMWs and Mercedes.
Shipping blog TradeWinds reported Japan's K Line is the operator of "Fremantle Highway." According to K Line's figures, there are 3,783 vehicles, of which 489 are EVs. Earlier estimates had the number of EVs at 25.
"The figure is far higher than first estimated and appears to raise the likelihood that a lithium-ion battery in an EV either caused the blaze in the 6,210-ceu Fremantle Highway (built 2013) or added to its severity," TradeWinds said.
Reuters pointed out that the Dutch coastguard said the fire's origin is unknown, but Dutch broadcaster RTL said emergency responders were heard saying, "The fire started in the battery of an electric car."
The fire broke out late Tuesday night on board the vessel. Coastguard officials said the fire "could still burn for days." The latest known position of the ship was off the northern Dutch coast on Wednesday.
Nathan Habers, spokesperson for the Royal Association of Netherlands Shipowners, told Reuters, "When transporting electric cars powered by batteries - which when they catch fire can't be extinguished with water, or even by oxygen deprivation."
One significant risk for lithium-ion batteries is "thermal runaway" during a fire that is hard to extinguish and can spontaneously reignite. Yet another risk emerges as governments set decarbonization targets for the transportation sector.