Salvage crews begin towing a burning cargo ship to a new location off the Dutch coast as smoke eases

THE HAGUE, Netherlands –

Salvage crews started towing a burning cargo ship loaded with thousands of cars to a temporary anchorage location off the northern Dutch coast on Sunday after smoke pouring from the stricken vessel eased, authorities said.

On Saturday night, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management had said the Fremantle Highway was unlikely to be moved because of a southeasterly wind blowing smoke from the days-old fire over tugboats.

But that changed Sunday.

“The smoke from the cargo ship subsided considerably this afternoon and the salvage combination Multraship/Smit Salvage immediately made use of this,” the ministry said in a statement referring to two salvage companies involved in the operation.

The ship was being slowly towed by two tugs to a temporary anchor point about 16 kilometers (10 miles) north of the Dutch islands of Schiermonnikoog and Ameland.

Experts are continuously monitoring the ship’s stability and a specialized boat used to clean up oil is nearby in case there is a spill, the ministry added.

The salvage teams ultimately want to tow the stricken ship to a port but it is not yet clear where or when that will happen.

The crews on Saturday attached a second towing cable to the ship, which was transporting 3,783 new vehicles, including 498 electric vehicles, from the German port of Bremerhaven to Singapore.

The ship has been burning since Tuesday. Firefighters decided not to douse the flames with water for fear of making the nearly 200-meter (219-yard) ship unstable as it floats close to North Sea shipping lanes and a world-renowned migratory bird habitat.

One crew member died and others were injured after the fire broke out. The crew was evacuated in the early hours of Wednesday.

The cause of the fire has not been determined.

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