The Portuguese Navy said it rescued all 22 crew members by helicopter. Authorities described the rescue mission as “highly skilled and physically demanding”. The crew members were taken to a hotel on Faial island in the Azores, according to the Associated Press. None of the crew members were injured in the fire.
The fire was still burning on the ship on Friday, according to the Portuguese Navy, and photos showed white smoke billowing from the ship. Joao Mendes Cabecas, a captain at the nearby port of Hortas, told Reuters that lithium-ion batteries in the Felicity Ace’s electric cars had caught fire, but it was unclear if that was the cause of the fire.
“The ship is burning from end to end,” Cabecas said. “Everything is on fire at about five meters [16 feet] above the waterline.”
Tugboats from Gibraltar and the Netherlands are en route to the site, with three expected to be there by Wednesday, Cabecas told Reuters.
The ship will likely be towed to another European country or the Bahamas, according to the outlet.
Angus Fitton, a spokesman for Porsche North America, told the Washington Post that the company is grateful that Felicity Ace’s crew members are safe. He confirmed that “a number of our cars are under the load”.
“We are in contact with the shipping company and the details of the cars on board are now known,” Fitton said. “Although it is still too early to confirm the incident and the next steps, we – together with our colleagues at Porsche AG – are supporting our customers and our dealers as best we can to find solutions. Anyone affected by this incident and the impact it has on the car they have ordered should contact their Porsche dealership.”
It remains unclear how many of the thousands of luxury vehicles on board were lost in the fire, but it’s likely worth millions of dollars. The Felicity Ace can carry more than 18,700 tons of cargo.
Depending on the model of Porsche, the average price for the German-made vehicle can range from $101,000 to $174,000, according to US dealers. In addition to the Porsches and Volkswagens, there were also 189 Bentleys on the ship, the Drive reported. Newer Bentley models can range in price from $166,000 to $348,000, according to Car and Driver.
A Volkswagen Group spokesman confirmed that the Felicity Ace transported its vehicles to the United States, but declined to elaborate on the extent of the losses.
“We are in contact with the shipping company to get more information about the incident,” said spokesman Dirk Ameer.
Japanese shipping company Mitsui OSK Lines, which operates the Felicity Ace, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The fire on a cargo ship is the latest crisis in the ongoing supply chain battles that have plagued U.S. retailers large and small since the coronavirus pandemic began. The US Department of Agriculture recently suspended imports of avocados from Mexico at a time when Americans were celebrating one of their two most avocado-centric events: the Super Bowl. (The other is Cinco de Mayo.)
Felicity Ace’s crew members issued a distress signal Wednesday morning after a fire was reported on one of the cargo decks. Soon after, the ship was designated “NUC” — not under command — and crew members were quickly evacuated, according to FleetMon, a ship-tracking database.
“Well, some people don’t get their long-awaited Porsches and whatever else was on that boat,” wrote author and photographer Zerin Dube.
On the same day, Porsche confirmed Felicity Ace’s fire in communications sent to customers to track the status of their cars.
“We ask for your patience while we work diligently to get you your dream Porsche as soon as possible,” the company wrote.
A Portuguese naval vessel is monitoring the Felicity Ace to see if the cargo ship is sinking or causing pollution, authorities said. A Navy spokesman told the AP that the vessel’s sheer size makes it unlikely that it will be towed to a port in the Azores.
Matt Farah, a car enthusiast and editor of Smoking Tire, is one customer who believes their vehicle is stuck at sea. Farah tweeted he’s been waiting since August for a 2022 Boxster Spyder modified to his specification. The vehicle he explained as “the best sports car of all time, hands down” has a retail price of approximately $123,000.
But when he got the call from his dealer, he was disappointed and stunned.
“My car is now drifting in the middle of the ocean, possibly on fire,” he said wrote.
Although he’s not sure if his car survived the fire, Farah said it’s likely the vehicle will need to be rebuilt.
“The chances are for a new building and hopefully not another 8 months waiting for it”, he tweeted.