The fate of the Felicity Ace‘s cargo is looking rather grim. Last week we learned that the 200-metre-long vessel had been abandoned just off the coast of the Azores after a fire broke out onboard, the near-4000 cars onboard left to burn for days. All 22 crew members were rescued.
Two tugboats carrying fire-fighting equipment didn’t arrive until Monday due to weather-related delays, five days after the fire broke out. MOL, the ship’s operator, said on 21 February that the Felicity Ace was “still assumed to remain on fire” and drifting away from the Portuguese archipelago.
The big problem is the number of electric vehicles on board. João Mendes Cabeças, port captain on the island of Faial told Reuters: “It will take a while,” noting that the lithium-ion batteries aboard are “keeping the fire alive”. It’s only possible to battle the fire from the outside, and water extinguishers aren’t much good for stopping these kinds of batteries from burning. Plus, the weight of the water could destabilise the ship.
Also on Monday, shipping claims specialist WK Webster said that: “the fire has spread throughout the entire length of the vessel and it appears that everything above the waterline has been burnt,” adding, “vehicles stowed below the waterline will likely also be affected by burning debris from upper decks and fire-fighting water”. The ship is listing slightly, but is described as “stable” and isn’t leaking oil.
There are 3965 vehicles onboard, 1100 of which are Porsches. Cars from Audi, VW, Lamborghini and Bentley are also in the holds, with the whole lot weighing in at an estimated value of $255 million (£188 million) according to WK Webster. Russell Group meanwhile gave an estimate of $401 million for passenger cars and goods vehicles, contributing to a total cargo value of $438 million.
It’s looking like the Felicity Ace won’t be allowed into Faial’s port due to environmental concerns. Instead, it’ll have to be towed much further afield to either mainland Europe or the Bahamas. The ship’s original destination was Rhode Island in the US, where it was en-route from Emden, Germany.
With so many cars onboard, it’s likely to be a decent mix of models for each brand. As for the Porsches, we already know one of those is a 718 Spyder belonging to Matt Farah of The Smokin’ Tire fame.
When news of the blaze first broke last week, Porsche released a statement acknowledging the incoming disruption to customer orders. It said:
“Our immediate thoughts are of the 22 crew of the merchant ship “Felicity Ace”, all of whom we understand are safe and well as a result of their rescue by the Portuguese Navy following reports of a fire on board.
We believe a number of our cars are among the cargo on board the ship. No further details of the specific cars affected are available at this time – we are in close contact with the shipping company and will share more information in due course.
Anyone concerned by the implications of this incident on a car they’ve ordered should maintain contact with the dealer with which their order was placed. As more information becomes available, our dealers will contact every customer affected to discuss next steps.”
Update: The Felicity Ace has since sunk due to a combination of structural issues caused by the fire and rough seas. It slipped beneath the surface of the Atlantic on 1 March 220 miles off the coast of the Azores.