- The 198-meter-long Felicity Ace, carrying 3,965 Volkswagen supercars, caught fire in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean near Faial Island in the Azores, Portugal on the morning of February 16.
- All 22 crew members of the ship were evacuated by the Portuguese Air Force and Navy.
- The fire is believe to continue to affect the auto industry, which has been affected by a range of supply chain problems.
The Felicity Ace ship carrying 4000 supercars suddenly caught on fire
The Felicity Ace ship carrying 4000 supercars suddenly caught fire in the North Atlantic Ocean on February 16. According to the AP news agency, the 198-meter-long Felicity Ace departed from the port of Emden (Germany) on February 10. The ship is scheduled to arrive in Davisville, Rhode Island (USA) on the morning of February 23. There are 3965 Volkswagen Group supercars on board, including about 1100 Porsche cars, 189 Bentley cars and an unspecified number of Audi cars, as reported by Volkswagen’s internal information.
According to RT station, after sending a signal fire in the mid-Atlantic Ocean near Faial island in the Azores, Portugal on the morning of February 16, this Panama-flagged ship was quickly approached by the Portuguese Navy’s NRP Setubal patrol boat and four commercial vessels in the area. All 22 crew members were evacuated and taken to a local hotel by the Portuguese Air Force and Navy.
The ship, which is currently unmanned, is drifting near the Portuguese Azores archipelago. The Portuguese navy said that the owner of the Felicity Ace was on the scene dealing with a large fire, which can be more difficult to control with EV batteries on board. They planned to pull the ship ashore from the evening of February 16 and stayed at the scene to monitor the situation and prevent oil spills, polluting the waters.
“To facilitate carriage of automobiles the internal spaces are not divided into separate sections like other cargo ships,” said Rahul Khanna, global head of marine risk consulting at Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty. “The lack of internal bulkheads can have an adverse impact on fire safety and a small fire on one vehicle or battery can grow out of control very quickly. Vehicles are not easily accessible once loading has been completed.”
Heavy impact on the automotive industry
The fire is believed to continue to impact the automotive industry, which has been affected by a series of supply chain-related issues, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, semiconductor chip shortages, etc.
Matt Farah, a customer in the US, has been waiting for a 2022 Porsche Boxster Spyder with a retail price of about 123000 USD since August 2021. But on February 16, Farah received a disappointing announcement. “I got a call from the dealer. My car is now adrift at sea, it might even have caught fire in the middle of the ocean”, the man said.
A report by software company Skytek estimates the market value of the Felicity Ace at $24.5 million, while the total value of the 3965 vehicles could be more than $500 million.
This is not the first time that Volkswagen has had a “lost at sea” incident. In 2019, more than 2000 supercars, belonging to the Audi and Porsche brands, were sunk in the Grande America incident that caught fire in the Atlantic Ocean.
Cargo vessel fires have been the number three cause of maritime loss over the past decade, and there were 10 “total loss” cargo ship fires in 2020, according to Reinsurance News. While, overall, the shipping industry has improved its safety record in the past 10 years, roll-on-roll-off (RORO) ferries are at high risk for fire.
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