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The cargo ship, Felicity Ace, plunged thousands of Porches and Bentleys into the ocean. The vessel billowed smoke and remained aflame as it drifted off the shore of Western Europe. According to Japanese Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (M.O.L.) Ship Management, the cargo ship burst into flames six days after departing Emden, Germany, for Davisville, Rhode Island. There was no confirmation from the cargo ship management why and how the fire started. However, all the 22 crew members were safe.
On Friday, the Portuguese Navy confirmed that experts had come by helicopter. M.O.L. Ship Management corroborated that a big salvage tugboat towed the Felicity Ace cargo ship off the Azores area. The fire was out, and there was no smoke, but the central section of the cargo ship had a higher temperature. Last Tuesday, when they started towing the Felicity Ace, it lost stability, and the two-week transatlantic saga ended despite efforts to extinguish the fire and salvage what remained of the 4,000-vehicle cargo.
The cargo ship carried 2,200 tons of oil, 2,200 tons of fuel, and other pollutants such as paint, electrical wires, and plastics.
The Integrity of the Car
Experts concur that a vehicle’s integrity is questionable once it has been on board a ship on fire.
Dr. Richard Burke, Professor, and Chair of Naval Architecture & Marine Engineering at Maritime College, State University of New York, said that fires on cars are difficult to extinguish. This is because each vehicle has at least half a gallon of motor oil, a gallon of gasoline, and rubber tires that fuel the fire.
A 650-foot car carrier, Sincerity Ace, caught fire in the Pacific Ocean in December 2018, about 2,000 miles northwest of Oahu, Hawaii. It was carrying 3,500 Nissan cars from Japan. Maritime specialists said that the vehicles aboard would have been scrapped even if they saved the vessel.
Nearly 1,000 miles from another shore, the Azores archipelago has a unique ecosystem and the feeding ground of blue whales, sperm whales, humpback whales, sharks, and dolphins.
The environmental groups were concerned about the impact on the seabed covered with coral forests, sponges, and coral reefs. Presently, the Portuguese and Environmental officials are monitoring the area.
Almost 4,000 Volkswagen Group cars were aboard the Felicity Ace — including about 1,100 Porsches and 200 Bentleys with an estimated value of $438 million, $400 million of which is the vehicles.
The misfortune of Felicity Ace cargo ship is only another setback for the already-problematic global supply chain. Production was down-sized when the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020, and there were labor shortages and the manufacturing of computer chips. As a result, freight takes longer to arrive, and ports face traffic jams of cargo ships.
Luxury car brands are working with dealers and buyers to replace their vehicles.
Written by Janet Grace Ortigas
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
The New York Times: After Burning for Days, a Ship Carrying Thousands of Luxury Cars Sinks; by Azi Paybarah and Maria Cramer
The Washington Post: Cargo ship carrying thousands of luxury cars sinks after burning for weeks; by Maria Paul
USA Today: Cargo ship carrying thousands of luxury cars sinks in the Atlantic Ocean with cars on board; by Gabriela Miranda
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of dendoktoor’s Pixabay Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Steve Smith’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License