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Via AIMU Newsletter

The fire on the car carrier Fremantle Highway in the North Sea is just the latest in a long and ever-growing list of fires involving vehicles on roll-on/roll-off car carriers.
As we have reported, the Panama-flagged ship caught fire just before midnight on Tuesday after departing Bremerhaven, Germany on a voyage to Port Said, Egypt. All crew members abandoned ship or were rescued by helicopter. Sadly, one crew member has died and several sustained injuries.

The ship is reportedly carrying 2,857 vehicles, including 25 electric vehicles, although there seems to be some discrepancy about the actual number of vehicles on onboard. As of now, the cause of the fire is unknown, but reporting indicates it may have started in one of the electric vehicles. As the response continues, the incident recalls several previous fires involving stowed vehicles on roll-on/roll-off ships in recent years. Here’s a look at at some of those incidents:

Grande Costa D’Avorio - The Italian-flagged Grande Costa D’Avorio, a combination roll-on/roll-off (ConRo) ship caught fire on July 5,2023, while loading used vehicles for export at Port Newark, New Jersey.
Felicity Ace - The Panama-flagged Felicity Ace caught fire on February 16, 2022, approximately 90 nautical miles southwest of the Azores as the ship was underway from Embden, Germany to the U.S. East Coast.
Höegh Xiamen - Grimaldi’s Höegh Xiamen was carrying 2,420 used vehicles on board when it caught fire in in Jacksonville, Florida, on June 4,2020. Nine firefighters were injured in the response and the fire took over a week to extinguish, resulting in the total loss of the vessel and cargo.
Grande Europa - The fire on board the Grimaldi vessel Grande Europa started on May 15, 2019, while the vessel was underway about 25 miles off Palma de Mallorca, Spain. Its cargo consisted of 1,687 vehicles, including cars, vans, trucks, and excavators, the majority of which were new.
Grande America - The Grimaldi ConRo Grande America sank in the Bay of Biscay back on March 12, 2019, two days a cargo fire broke out on a voyage from Hamburg, Germany to Casablanca, Morocco. The ship was carrying around 860 tons of dangerous goods and about 2,100 new and used vehicles.
Honor - On February 24, 2017, the 623-foot-long US-flagged car carrier Honor was en route from Southampton, England, to Baltimore, Maryland, when a fire broke out in the upper vehicle deck. The accident resulted in extensive damage to the Honor’s hold as well as its cargo of about 5,000vehicles.
Courage - On June 2, 2015, another US-flagged car carrier, Courage, suffered a fire in its cargo hold during a voyage from Bremerhaven, Germany, to Southampton, United Kingdom. As a result of the damage, estimated at $40 million total, the vessel’s owners scrapped the vessel.

Conclusion: While it’s difficult to draw conclusions about the Fremantle Highway fire and others from previous incidents, a look back at similar incidents does provide some insight and background about the dangers associated with transportation of new and used vehicles on roll-on/roll-off ships. With the growing popularity of electric vehicles, it will be interesting to see how or if rules and regulations evolve to meet new challenges associated with transporting them by ship. (gCaptain, 7/27/2023)

NOTE: Here is a link to this entire informative article: A Brief LookBack at Recent Car Carrier Fires (