Two large tugs with firefighting equipment reached a car carrier smoldering off the coast of Portugal on Monday. The Felicity Ace was bound for the United States reportedly bearing Audis, Bentleys, Lamborghinis and Porsches when a fire broke out Wednesday in the Atlantic Ocean about 90 miles southwest of the Azores.
The Felicity Ace “is still assumed to remain on fire” and was drifting farther south of the islands, MOL Ship Management Singapore said in a statement Tuesday.
“Currently there is no oil leakage confirmed from the vessel, which remains stable,” the manager of the ship, owned and operated by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL), said.
MOL Ship Management said the tugs, sailing from Gibraltar, would spray water on the Felicity Ace and assist a salvage team already onsite to “cool down the heat from the vessel.” Two salvage vessels with additional firefighting equipment and towing capability are expected to arrive at the scene from Rotterdam, Netherlands, on Wednesday and Saturday.
The fire broke out late Wednesday morning while the Felicity Ace was en route from Emden, Germany, to the Port of Davisville in Rhode Island. MOL said with assistance of commercial ships in the area and the Portuguese navy, all 22 crew members were safely evacuated from the Felicity Ace and taken ashore by the Resilient Warrior, a tanker ship operated by Polembros Shipping.
In its first statement, issued Thursday, MOL Shipmanagement said the Felicity Ace “has experienced a fire and the master has taken the prudent decision to abandon the ship.”
Although no cause of the fire has been disclosed, Reuters reported some of the vehicles on board were electric and equipped with lithium-ion batteries.
The Felicity Ace can carry about 4,000 vehicles. Volkswagen Group, owner of the cars on board the vessel, has not said how many vehicles are on the Felicity Ace or the breakdown of the models, although it has been reported they included 2022 Porsche Boxster Spyders as well as Audis, Bentleys and Lamborghinis.
MOL was the charterer of the Sincerity Ace, a car carrier that caught fire in the North Pacific on Dec. 31, 2018. Five crew members died in that accident.
In June 2019, a “K” Line vehicle carrier, the MV Diamond Highway, caught fire en route from Singapore to the Philippines. The Diamond Highway previously had been named the Utopia Ace.
In September 2019, the Golden Ray capsized off the coast of Georgia. The loss of cargo, which included 4,161 vehicles, was pegged at $142 million. The value of the Golden Ray was estimated at $62.5 million. The National Transportation Safety Board pegged salvage costs at more than $250 million. It would take more than two years before the wreckage was completely removed from St. Simons Sound.