A large container ship carrying luxury cars is ablaze in the Atlantic Ocean, and has been burning for several days since it caught fire last Wednesday. Once crewed by 22 people, the Felicity Ace has since been abandoned while salvage officials battle the blaze that is reportedly complicated by the lithium batteries in some of the cars.
The Felicity Ace is a container ship of the company Mitsui OSK Lines Ltd and its latest voyage was carrying around 4,000 cars for Volkswagen AG, the umbrella company encompassing Volkswagen, Audi, Bently, Porsche, and more. Many of these transported were luxury electric cars, and Porsche have since confirmed that 1,100 of the cars on board were theirs. In total, the value of the cars onboard equated to an astonishing $401 million, with the value of all the ships’ contents reaching $438 million, according to a recent insurance estimate.
Salvage crews will continue to attempt to extinguish the fires, though if the lithium fires are the source of the inferno, this will be a difficult undertaking. Lithium fires burn for much longer and require significantly more water than typical combustion fires. Teslas that have caught fire in recent years required up to 20,000 gallons of water to finally extinguish.
It is unclear how the fire started, though the heavy white smoke billowing from the vessel has diminished in recent days, suggesting an end could be in sight.
The destruction of so many cars comes at a critical point in the ongoing supply chain issues that resulted from the pandemic.
“These figures showed once again the precariousness of global supply chains. 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,” said Suki Basi, Managing Director of the Russel Group, in a statement.
As of February 22nd, the Felicity Ace is assumed to still be on fire as it drifts south of the Azores, an archipelago west of Portugal. Two tugboats are on scene spraying water at the vessel, with another expected to arrive today, a navy helicopter expected to survey the scene on the 24th, and a further tugboat expected on the 26th. It is currently not leaking oil into the Atlantic Ocean and remains stable, with officials hoping for a quick solution to the ongoing fire.