Burning ship, 4,000 burning cars in the Atlantic, oh, my!

James Raia

As if the automotive marketplace doesn’t nave enough problems, now it has burning cars on a burning ship adrift on a ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

According to insurance experts, an estimated 4,000 vehicles in transition from Germany to Rhode Island were cargo on the now-abandoned 656-foot Felicity Ace. It’s the ship that caught fire while carrying an estimated $401 million worth of cars and a total of $438 million in goods.

A cargo ship on fire in the Atlanta Ocean has about 4,000 burning cars on board.
A cargo ship on fire in the Atlanta Ocean has about 4,000 burning cars on board.

The burning cars include Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini, Porsche or Volkswagen models.

The vessel’s 22 crew members were evacuated without injuries via helicopter. But the fire continued to burn for several days, fueled by lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles on board, according a port official.

“These figures showed once again the precariousness of global supply chains,” said Suki Basi, managing director of Volkswagen, which owns Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini and Porsche. “The incident comes at a bad time for global carmakers, who are in the middle of a supply chain crisis sourcing semiconductors, resulting in new delays for new cars. An event like this will not do a great deal in instilling trust with consumers.”

The ship’s operator, MOL Ship Management (Singapore), said the vessel was “still assumed to remain on fire south of the Azores drifting further away from the islands.”

It said two firefighting tug boats were due to arrive at the site of the ship and its burning cars on Monday and would “start spraying water to Felicity Ace together with the patrol boat with the initial salvage team onboard already on site to cool down the heat from the vessel.”

The company said the ship remained stable and was not leaking oil. Another salvage craft with firefighting equipment is set to arrive from Rotterdam on Feb. 26.

João Mendes Cabeças, captain of the nearest port in the Azorean island of Faial, told the news agency Reuters that lithium-ion batteries in the electric vehicles were “keeping the fire alive.”

According to the Providence Journal, more than 200,000 vehicles per year drive straight off massive vessels similar to the Felicity Ace and onto the asphalt at Davisville, Rhode Island, before being sent to dealerships throughout the Northeast.

North Atlantic Distribution Inc. runs one of the largest auto importing facilities in North America from the Davisville piers.

The Felicity Ace departed Emden, Germany on Feb. 10 to begin its journey across the Atlantic. It is owned by Snowcape Car Carriers, a subsidiary of Mitsui O.S.K. Lines of Japan. Its future status hasn’t been determined.

About 670 large car carriers similar to the Felicity Ace are used worldwide.

In 2019, the ship Grande America caught fire and sank with four limited Porsche 911 GT2 RS, 33 other Porsches and about 2,000 new Audis on board and en route from Germany to South America. Porsche restarted production for the buyers of the four $300,000 GT2 RS vehicles.


Article Last Updated: February 22, 2022.

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