A cargo ship carrying 4,000 cars caught fire. Here's everything we know
A cargo ship named Felicity Ace, tasked with carrying cars from Volkswagen's facility in Germany to the U.S., caught fire earlier this week and had to be abandoned in the ocean, Business Insider reported. About 4,000 vehicles were aboard the ship, including those from luxury brands, such as Porsche, Audi, Lamborghini, Bentley that belong to the Volkswagen group.
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2021 hasn't been a lucky year for the automotive industry. Marred by chip shortages and low demands, most car makers failed to move their inventory anywhere close to pre-pandemic levels. The only exception to this was Tesla, which made record sales while also dealing with supply chain hurdles. Volkswagen, which is also betting on electric vehicles for its future, was hopeful of better sales in 2022 as it shipped 4,000 vehicles in this shipment.
The voyage began from the port of Emden in Germany on February 10, and was scheduled to terminate on the morning of February 23 at Davisville, Rhode Island, The Drive reported. The 650 foot long (198 m) cargo ship had completed a similar journey last month as it carried 21 Lamborghinis.
However, on the morning of February 16, while the ship was 90 nautical miles (170 km) southwest of the coast of the Portuguese island of Faial, a fire broke out in the cargo section of the ship. The crew sent a distress signal that was picked up by the Portuguese Navy as well as merchant ships in the vicinity.
The 22 crew members that had abandoned the ship in their rescue boats were picked up by an EH-101 helicopter of the Portuguese Air Force and transferred to a hotel as none of them required any medical assistance, the Portuguese Navy said in an official statement.
While the exact cause of the fire is still not known, the cargo ship continues to float in the ocean and is still on fire. According to the Portuguese Navy's statement, there was no pollution so far, which likely means that there is no fuel spill since the ship has been sending plumes of smoke in the air for over two days now.
The Portuguese Navy also confirmed that Felicity Ace's owners are working out a plan to tow the ship but it is yet to be put into action.
With regards to the cars, Fortune accessed an internal email from Volkswagen U.S., which indicated that were 3,965 vehicles onboard. While 100 of these cars belonged to Volkswagen's product line of Golf, GTI, and ID4 models, a spokesperson for Porsche told the outlet that about 1,100 of its vehicles were onboard.
The exact damage inflicted by the fire will only be known when the cargo ship is brought back to the shores if it ever could be. In 2019, Volkswagen lost over 2,000 vehicles onboard another cargo ship. Grande America sank after a fire broke out with the vehicles, Fortune reported.