The Felicity Ace, a car carrier loaded with new Volkswagens and Porsches has caught fire and is adrift in the Atlantic Ocean.
The ship’s 22 crew members were forced to abandon the cargo carrier as flames spread, according to maritime officials.
The 656-foot roll-on/roll-off carrier was en route from Emden, where Volkswagen has a major assembly plant, to a port in Davisville, Rhode Island, according to Marine Traffic, a website that track maritime shipping.
Thousands of vehicles may be lost
The Felicity Ace is carrying a mix of Porsches and Volkswagens bound for the U.S. market. Precisely how many are onboard is unclear though similar sized vessels can carry thousands of vehicles. A Porsche official said about 1,100 of its vehicles were onboard, while German newspaper Handelsblatt quoted an internal e-mail from Volkswagen’s U.S. operations indicating there were 3,965 vehicles on the carrier, including a small number of Audis and Lamborghinis, as well. And auto website The Drive said the cargo also included 189 Bentleys.
“The dealer confirmed that my car, along with at least a dozen other vehicles they were expecting, is on that boat,” television and podcast host Matt Farah told CNN, noting he was waiting for a Porsche Boxster.
“They had no further information for me beyond confirming my car was on the boat,” added Farah, “and said that as soon as Porsche Cars North America has a plan of any kind with how to proceed, that they would share the plans with me.”
Fire continues to burn
It remains unclear how much damage the ship has sustained though the fire was reportedly not yet under control as of Friday morning, according to reports from the Portugese Navy, which was the first to respond to an emergency call.
All of the crew have been accounted for and rescued and none were reported to have been injured.
It is unclear what caused the fire, but the ship’s owners have announced plans to begin towing the vessel, even as the fire continues to burn. The carrier is operated by Japanese shipping company Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, but is registered out of Panama.
The latest car carrier disaster
With a capacity of 17,000 tons of cargo, the Felicity Ace was making 13.2 knots when the fire broke out.
VW officials say they are “in contact” with Mitsui hoping to get more information about the incident.
This is the latest incident involving a major car carrier. In August 2019, the Golden Ray capsized while loaded with 4,100 newly made vehicles onboard. The wreck is still being cleared from the waters just off the Georgia coast.
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