A gigantic freighter that was carrying thousands of vehicles, including 1,100 Porsches, was on fire and drifting off the Azores on Thursday after its 22 crew members were rescued from the vessel.
The fire broke out Wednesday morning in the hold of the ship, called the Felicity Ace, which had left Emden, Germany, on February 10 and was due to arrive in the port of Davisville, RI, on Wednesday, according to a ship tracking website.
The ship was about 200 miles from the island of Terceira in the Azores, the Portuguese island territory, when Portuguese forces intervened on Wednesday to evacuate the crew.
No rescuers or crew members were injured in the “highly skilled and physically demanding” operation, which included a helicopter that flew crew members to the neighboring Portuguese island of Faial, according to the authorities.
It was not clear how many 650 feet, 60,000 tons cargo inventory was lost in the fire and how authorities would deal with the stricken ship.
The reader, a car site, reported that the Volkswagen Group estimated nearly 4,000 vehicles were on board, including 189 Bentleys. Emails sent to the Volkswagen Group did not receive an immediate response.
Friday, Boskalisa Dutch marine services company, said a team of 16 experts from a subsidiary, SMIT Salvage, had been mobilized and large equipment was on its way from Spain and the Netherlands to help put out the fire on the ship.
Mitsui OSK Lineswhich operated the Felicity Ace, said it had set up an incident response team to coordinate the emergency and “do everything possible to contain the damage and resolve the situation”.
Pictures released by the Portuguese Navy on Friday showed smoke billowing from the ship and at least one firefighting boat spraying the vessel with water.
The blaze comes as showrooms across the country try to keep up with consumer demand amid supply chain issues caused in part by the pandemic. Low interest rates, higher savings rates and government stimulus payments have boosted demand, while automakers have struggled to cope with a shortage of computer chips.
Matt Farah, car enthusiast and editor of The smoking tirewas waiting for his 2022 frozen berry metallic Boxster Spyder, with a retail price of around $123,000 and modified to exact specifications, since August. “Hands down the best sports car of all time” he wrote.
He received disappointing news on Wednesday he said: “I just got a call from my dealer. My car is now adrift, possibly on fire, in the middle of the ocean.
In a statement on Thursday, Farah said a Porsche representative confirmed his car was on the boat and apologized for the inconvenience.
“That was yesterday, and I haven’t heard any updates since,” he said. “I’m glad no one was injured in the fire and everyone is safe, which is the most important thing. I’m sure that whatever happens in the future, Porsche will do this. what is needed for its customers.”
In a statement late Thursday, a spokeswoman for Porsche Cars North America said 1,100 company cars were on board but the fate of the vehicles was unknown. She encouraged customers worried about their car to contact their dealership.
“Our immediate thoughts are relieved that all 22 crew members of the merchant vessel Felicity Ace are safe and sound,” the statement read.
Michael Levenson contributed report.