Freighter carrying thousands of luxury cars sinks in the Atlantic

BERLIN — A freighter that caught fire last month with thousands of luxury vehicles on board sank Tuesday morning, the ship’s management company said.

MOL Ship Management Singapore Pte Ltd, owner of the company that operates the ship, said the Felicity Ace sank around 9 a.m. local time about 220 nautical miles (253 miles) off Portugal’s Azores islands. after starting to take on water and tilt to one side. .

The Panamanian-flagged 60,000-ton merchant vessel carrying around 4,000 luxury cars, including models of Porsches,

Bentley, Audi, Lamborghini and other Volkswagens AG

marks – caught fire in February and burned intensely for days.

SMIT Salvage, the Dutch company responsible for salvaging the vessel, sent a team of large ocean-going tugs to the scene and were towing the vessel to safety when it sank.

Rescue teams and the Portuguese Navy had said the intensity of the fire could be explained by a large number of electric vehicles on board. Some batteries are known to be flammable and burn at high temperatures when burning, making such a fire difficult to extinguish.

The Felicity Ace fire is one of the first aboard a major vehicle transporter loaded with a large cargo of electric vehicles. The incident has sparked a debate among insurers and regulators about how to transport these vehicles safely, an issue that will gain in urgency as electric vehicles become more widespread.

While the cause of the Felicity Ace fire may never be known because the ship sits on the ocean floor, experts say there is a danger that electric car batteries could short out and take fire. That could mean precautions not relevant to conventional vehicles might need to be taken into account during transport, regulators said.

After the fire stopped, Volkswagen said it expected “large parts of the group’s approximately 4,000 vehicles across multiple brands to be so badly damaged by the ship’s fire that they can no longer be delivered”.

Volkswagen declined to comment on the value of the cargo.

Incident insurance experts Russell Group Ltd. estimated that the cargo aboard the Felicity Ace was worth around $438 million, of which the cars on board were worth around $401 million. Russell estimated that VW could face losses of at least $155 million.

The Felicity Ace, a freighter carrying thousands of cars, including Porsches and Bentleys, to the port of Davisville, RI, caught fire last week and was adrift in the mid-Atlantic after the evacuation of the ‘crew. Burning electric vehicle batteries complicated efforts to fight the blaze. Photo: Portuguese Navy

Write to William Boston at [email protected]

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