Several of the crew on a fire-ravaged car carrier in the North Sea had to jump overboard to save their lives.

Twenty-three crew members — 21 of whom were Indian — were taken from the 6,220-ceu Fremantle Express (built 2013). Most were airlifted by helicopter, but some were forced by the intensity of the blaze to take desperate measures.

“All 23 crew members were disembarked. Part of the crew jumped overboard and were taken out of the water by lifeboats from the KNRM [Royal Netherlands Sea Rescue Institution] and Reerij Noordgat,” the Netherlands Coastguard said.

One crew member died but the coastguard said it did not know the cause of death. There were also several serious injuries.

Fortunately, lifeboats were waiting to immediately rescue the crew members who were forced into the North Sea’s freezing waters.

Local paper NRC reported that seven crew jumped from the ship.

The Netherlands Coastguard said some media reports of the moments leading up to the evacuation were “misleading”.

It cited media reports of transcripts of a VHF discussion between the ship’s master and rescue services on the evacuation of the ship in which it was said: “We are not going to do this now.”

The Netherlands Coastguard said the comment was not a decision but a “summary of the consultations between captain and coastguard”.

Firefighting tugs have been attempting to cool the hull but the coastguard is concerned that water used to fight the fire could cause stability problems with the car carrier.

Experts believe it could take weeks to fully extinguish the flames.

The vessel has been towed away from the main shipping lanes and a salvage plan is being drawn up.

Dutch salvage company Smit, a part of the Boskalis Group, and Multraship have been appointed salvors.

The Fremantle Highway is owned by Japan’s Shoei Kisen and operated by K Line.