A huge cargo ship carrying thousands of luxury vehicles, which include 1,100 Porsches, from Germany to the United States, caught fire forcing all 22 crew members to abandon ship and leave the vessel adrift in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The fire broke out Wednesday morning on the Felicity Ace, a ship about 650 feet long, near Portugal’s Azores Islands, according to the Portuguese navy.
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The ship had departed from Emden, Germany, on Feb. 10 and was scheduled to complete its 13-day trip and arrive in Davisville, R.I., next week. The Volkswagen Group estimated that nearly 4,000 cars were aboard the Felicity Ace. The Portuguese navy said all 22 crew members were able to be rescued via helicopter. Authorities described the rescue mission as “highly skilled and physically demanding.”
The fire was still burning on the ship as of Friday, according to the Portuguese navy, and photos showed white smoke billowing out of the vessel. Joao Mendes Cabecas, a captain of the nearby port of Hortas, told Reuters that lithium-ion batteries in the electric cars on the Felicity Ace caught fire, but it was unclear whether that is what started the blaze.
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Angus Fitton, a spokesman with Porsche North America, told The Washington Post that: “We are in contact with the shipping company, and the details of the cars on board are now known. While it remains too early to confirm what occurred and next steps, we are — along with our colleagues at Porsche AG — supporting our customers and our dealers as best we can to find solutions. Anyone concerned by this incident and the implications on the car they’ve ordered should contact their Porsche dealer.”
It remains unclear how many of the thousands of luxury vehicles on-board have been lost in the blaze, but it is probably millions of dollars’ worth because the Felicity Ace can carry more than 18,700 tons of cargo.
Depending on the model of the Porsche, the average price for the German-made vehicle can range from N42 million to N72.3 million. In addition to the Porsches and Volkswagens, there were also 189 Bentleys on the ship, the Drive reported. Newer-model Bentleys can cost between N70 million and N144 million.
A spokesman for the Volkswagen Group confirmed that the Felicity Ace was transporting its vehicles to the United States but declined to elaborate on the extent of the losses.
“We are in contact with the shipping company to get more information about the incident,” said the spokesman, Dirk Ameer. The Japanese shipping line Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, which operates the Felicity Ace, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A writer and photographer, Zerin Dube wrote: “Welp, some folks aren’t getting their long awaited Porsches and whatever else was on this boat.” That same day, Porsche acknowledged the Felicity Ace fire in notices sent to customers tracking the status of their cars. “We kindly ask for your patience while we work diligently on getting the Porsche of your dreams to you as quickly as possible.”