The Felicity Ace was on its way from Germany to the US when it caught fire on Wednesday morning about 90 nautical miles south-southwest of the Azores archipelago. All 22 members of its crew are thankfully safe, having been picked up by a Greek tanker and later airlifted by the Portuguese Navy.
As for the 200-metre-long vessel’s cargo, the news is potentially less rosy. The MOL-operated ship was carrying cars from Porsche and other VW Group brands, the condition of which may be unknown for some time.
Porsche released a statement acknowledging the potential for disruption to customer orders:
“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.”
Some customers have already been contacted. Motoring journalist Matt Farah of The Smokin’ Tire fame Tweeted on Wednesday: “I just got the call from my dealer. My car is now adrift, possibly on fire, in the middle of the ocean”. He’s referring to his 718 Spyder, in which he’d planned to install a 4.5-litre flat-six and a short-ratio gearbox from US firm DeMan after delivery.
In the early hours of Thursday morning, ship tracking website Fleetmon reported that the ship’s AIS (automatic identification system) was still on, with Portuguese Navy patrol ship NRP Setubal approaching “most probably to be on a standby until tugs arrive”. The Felicity Ace - which was sailing from Emden, Germany, to Davisville, Rhode Island - will be towed to shelter and await the arrival of whichever salvage company MOL appoints.
It’s not known how many cars are on board, but the Felicity Ace is reportedly able to carry up to 4000 vehicles. Thanks to Farah’s comments, we know it isn’t just run-of-the-mill Porsches in the hold.
The German firm lost more of its special vehicles in transport not so long ago. In 2019 it had to restart 991 911 GT2 RS production for the sake of a mere four cars, replacing the quartet of examples that had sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic in the hold of the Grimaldi Lines Grande America.