The nearly week-long fire that ravaged a ship off the Dutch coast started in the upper decks where some cars were stored, according to the chief executive of the company handling salvage operations. 

“The fire started in some of the top decks. We assume the eighth deck, that’s in a very poor state. Part of it is completely collapsed and it’s heavily, heavily destructed,” said Peter A M Berdowski, chief executive officer of Royal Boskalis Westminster NV, in a phone interview. The Dutch company provides dredging, towage and salvage services.

The Panama-flagged ship’s crew, all Indian nationals, had to be rescued by helicopter and one person died after the fire started late July 25. The vessel, with almost 3,800 vehicles on board including nearly 500 electric cars, was towed Thursday to the Eemshaven port in northeastern Netherlands. 

Some of the ship’s decks remain intact with cars located there undamaged, said Berdowski.

Among the ship’s cargo are several hundred BMW AG cars, as well as about 300 Mercedes-Benz Group AG vehicles, representatives for the companies have said. BMW AG’s Rolls-Royce said Wednesday it also has a small number of its cars aboard the ship. 

“We don’t know what the source was of the fire,” Berdowski said. “Having said that, I think all experts with any knowledge on this topic agree that the transportation of electric vehicles introduces additional risks,” he said.

The cause of the fire will be determined after an investigation at the port, a spokesperson for the Dutch government told Bloomberg by phone earlier Thursday. 

The fire started as the vessel was en route to Port Said, Egypt after a recent stop in the German port of Bremerhaven, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. 

Berdowski expects it will take a “couple of weeks” to unload a large part of the cargo at the Eemshaven port. After that, the vessel will likely be moved to either a yard for repair or to be decommissioned, he said.  

Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., the Japanese firm that owns the vessel, said the final destination for the carrier was Singapore. The company also owned the Ever Given, the huge container ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal in March 2021. A unit of Boskalis had helped refloat the massive container ship.