The 656 foot-long Felicity Ace roll-on/roll-off car-carrying ship caught fire in the North Atlantic last Wednesday as it carried around 4,000 vehicles, including Porsches, Volkswagens, Lamborghinis, Bentleys and Audis from Emden, Germany to Davisville, Rhode Island. All 22 crew members on board safely abandoned ship after the fire began to spread.
A full five days after the cargo ship and the luxury cars it was carrying on board began to burn 90 nautical miles southwest of Portugal’s Azores islands, captain João Mendes Cabeças told the Portuguese news agency Lusa that «the fire had subsided in recent hours,» thanks to a lack of materials left to blaze through.
Two large tugboats arrived on the scene Tuesday from Gibraltar and are spraying the ship with water to cool it down, according to a statement from the owner of the Felicity Ace, Japanese ship operator Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL). The tugboats will also help to position the Felicity Ace as safety conditions are assessed. Once approved, the initial salvage team will board and provide more insight on the damage as well as next steps. Two salvage boats are en route to the cargo ship to assist with firefighting and towing, according to the statement.
Cabeças told Reuters over the weekend that the fire was being kept alive by the lithium-ion batteries of the electric cars on board, with flames edging closer and closer to the fuel tanks of the ship. A main concern of the Portuguese navy has been the potential environmental impact of the fire. Pollution is a high risk with the large amount of fuel and car batteries present.
There is currently no oil leakage confirmed from the stable ship, according to the MOL statement Tuesday.
The giant cargo ship has $334.5 million in burning cars on board, consulting firm Anderson Economic Group (AEG) estimated in a new report. The salvage cost alone is estimated to be $150 million – bringing the total loss for the ship to half a billion dollars, the group estimates.
Porsche sent a letter to impacted car dealers that all lost cars would be rebuilt and delivered as soon as possible, according to journalist and television host Matt Farah, whose new 2022 Porsche Boxster Spyder was among those lost at sea. An estimated 1,100 Porsches and 189 Bentleys were lost on the ship, including many high-end, customized models that collectively would exceed $140 million in value, according to AEG and Reuters.
Volkswagen Group, which owns Lamborghini, Porsche and Audi, confirmed to CNN Business the ship was transporting its vehicles but has given no additional details.
Once deemed safe, the Felicity Ace will be towed to another European country or the Bahamas, Cabecas told Reuters.