Ship Carrying German Luxury Cars on Fire in Atlantic Ocean for Days

Felicity Ace
The ship, Felicity Ace, which was traveling from Emden, Germany, where Volkswagen has a factory, to Davisville, in the U.S. state of Rhode Island, burns more than 100 km from the Azores islands, Portugal, February 18, 2022 | Image by Portuguese Navy (Marinha Portuguesa)

The Felicity Ace, a merchant ship full of German luxury cars that has been drifting ablaze in the Atlantic Ocean for over a week. Heavy tugboats have reached its location, however, inclement weather delayed the arrival of other vessels needed to right the cargo ship and put out the fire.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the fire’s intensity has decreased, but the ship is still burning and too hot to board. The fire has been burning on the Felicity Ace since February 16.

The merchant ship, which left Germany on February 10 en route for the U.S., caught fire as the boat neared the coast of Portugal. Slated to arrive in Rhode Island on February 23, it is now floating about 200 miles southwest of Portugal’s Azores Islands.

The Felicity Ace was carrying around 4,000 Volkswagen Group cars from various brands, including Audi, Lamborghini, Porsche, Bugatti, and its namesake, Volkswagen.

Carscoops.com reports some of the vehicles on the ship are electric or hybrid and equipped with lithium-ion batteries. Authorities say the batteries kept the fires burning, although its original cause is as of yet unknown. Batteries are notoriously difficult to extinguish once they catch fire, experts say. 

João Mendes Cabeças, captain of the nearest port on the Azorean island of Faial, told Lusa News that the fire has died down in recent hours. Cabeças added that there was probably not much flammable material left to burn. For the past few days, the ship has emitted billowing white smoke.

As the fire diminishes, firefighting teams and technicians may be able to board the ship and prepare to tow it to Europe or the Bahamas, according to Cabeças.

Volkswagen, which owns the brands, has not confirmed the total number of vehicles on board and said it is awaiting more information on Friday, Reuters reports.

A Porsche spokesperson told Carscoops.com the company suspects it lost over 1,000 of its vehicles in the blaze.

“We believe around 1,100 of our cars are affected. These cars were destined to be sold in America,” the spokesperson told Carscoops in an email. “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.”     

All twenty-two members of the Felicity Ace crew were rescued.

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