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Burnt-out “Fremantle Highway” becomes a bone of contention

The new owner wants to sell the wreck of the burnt-out car carrier “Fremantle Highway” to China but is unable to obtain an export license.

It was one of the most spectacular shipping accidents last year: a fire broke out on the almost 200-metre-long car carrier off the Dutch island of Ameland on its way from Bremerhaven to Singapore. One crew member died when he jumped from the ship into the sea, the other 16 crew members were rescued by helicopters of the Dutch coast guard. [ds_preview]

The car freighter threatened to sink for a long time, but in the end, the badly damaged ship was towed to Eemshaven, where the cargo was unloaded. Thousands of expensive cars from on board the “Fremantle Highway” have since ended up in the furnaces of Tata Steel in Velsen-Noord near Amsterdam. This fate also threatens the wreck, if the Dutch environmental and transport inspectorate ILT (Inspectie Leefomgeving en Transport) has its way.

Fremantle Highway
The badly damaged car freighter “Fremantle Highway” was towed from its anchorage near Schiermonnikoog to Eemshaven

Dispute over “Fremantle Highway” ends up in court

But now the Dutch company Koole Contractors, the current owner of the “Fremantle Highway”, has initiated summary proceedings against ILT. Koole does not want to scrap the car freighter, which is completely burnt out above the engine room, but wants to transfer it to China for restoration.

However, ILT refuses to grant an export license. Reason: The competent authority’s inspection considers the ship to be waste, and this may not be shipped to countries that are not members of the OECD. This includes China. The dispute is to be heard by a court in The Hague as early as tomorrow Friday (March 22).

Fremantle Highway
The badly damaged car freighter “Fremantle Highway” was towed from its anchorage near Schiermonnikoog to Eemshaven

Koole Contractors had purchased the badly damaged car freighter from the previous Japanese owner for the symbolic sum of €1. The ship is now at the Damen shipyard in Rotterdam. Technically, the freighter is said to be in good order. The upper part between decks 5 and 12, in particular, was damaged by the fire, while the lower decks and the engine room, in particular, are said to be in good condition.

Koole is now planning to sell the ship to a Chinese shipyard for €11 million, where it will then be rebuilt. Jürgen Treffers, Financial Director of Koole, argues that there is a shortage of car carriers. It is, therefore, a sustainable solution not to scrap the ship, which was built in 2013. A new car carrier of this size, on the other hand, would cost around €160 million. (CE)

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