Two weeks after catching fire, a gigantic ship carrying thousands of luxury cars sank on Tuesday morning about 253 miles off the Azores, according to the company that managed the ship.
The ship, the Felicity Ace, sank around 9 a.m. local time after rolling to starboard, plunging around 4,000 cars – including more than 1,000 Porsches and 200 Bentleys – into the sea, according to the company, MOL Ship Management.
Environmental groups had been deeply concerned that the ship would sink and the pollution it would cause in the unique ecosystem of the Azores, the Portuguese archipelago in the North Atlantic, where the seabed is covered with coral reefs, of coral forests and sponges.
The area is home to sperm whales, blue whales, humpback whales, dolphins and sharks, among other species, according to Oceana, an environmental group.
A massive ship like the Felicity Ace can hold more than three million liters of heavy fuel oil, as well as petroleum, according to Oceana. Other pollutants in a boat include electrical wires, paint, and plastics.
A fire broke out in the ship’s hold six days after it left Emden, Germany, for the port of Davisville in Rhode Island. MOL Ship Management did not say how or why the fire started.
Nearby commercial vessels and a helicopter rescued the ship’s 22 crew. No one was injured during the evacuation.
But the Felicity Ace, which is 650ft long, remained ablaze and billowing smoke, adrift off western Europe.
Several efforts were made to extinguish the fire and assess the damage to the vessel.
Photos shared by the Portuguese Navy showed the ship consumed by white smoke. A photo showed a smaller boat spraying water on the Felicity Ace. The midsection of the ship appeared to be burned.
The Portuguese Navy said Friday that a team of experts had arrived by helicopter the day before. MOL Ship Management said a large salvage tug started towing the Felicity Ace to “a safe area” off the Azores.
“The ship, apparently stable, has no fires outside or inside, although there is a high temperature in the central area, without smoke in its structure”, the navy said at the time.
But on Tuesday morning, as the ship was being towed, it “lost stability and sank”, according to the Portuguese Navy.
“A small spot of oily residue” was visible and was being dispersed by water jets from the tugboats, the Navy said. The area was being monitored by Portuguese and European environmental officials, the navy said in a statement.
Angus Fitton, a spokesman for Porsche Cars North America Inc., expressed relief that the crew members of the Felicity Ace were “unharmed” and said the company was “supporting our customers as best we can. “.
“We are already working to replace each affected car,” he said, “and the first cars will be built soon.” Mr. Fitton did not say when that would be.
One of the Porsches on board belonged to Matt Farah, car enthusiast and editor of The Smoking Tire.
He had been waiting for the car, a metallic 2022 Boxster Spyder with a retail price of around $123,000, since August.
Mr Farah summed up the loss on his podcast: “Auto. Boat. Fire. Adrift. Like, that’s the whole story.
Maritime specialists said that even if the ship had been salvaged, the cars on board would most likely have been scrapped.
“Once on board a burning vessel, no one can tell you much about the integrity of the car,” said Richard Burke, professor and chairman of naval architecture and marine engineering at the State University of New York Maritime College. “So if you can’t do that, why would you accept a warranty contract on that car? »
Mr. Farah, on his podcast, agreed.
“If it’s not the fire, it’s the molten lithium,” he said. “If it’s not the molten lithium, it’s the smoke. And if it’s not smoke, it’s sea water.
Dr Burke noted that fires on car carriers could be extremely difficult to put out as ships typically carried thousands of vehicles and each vehicle would have a gallon of gasoline, half a gallon of motor oil and four tires. rubber that can burn.
“These are really tough fires; they’re terrible,’ Dr Burke said, adding: ‘Once the fire gets started, the crew doesn’t have much of a chance of putting the fire out.
In December 2018, another 650ft car transporter, the Sincerity Ace, caught fire in the Pacific Ocean, about 2,000 miles northwest of Oahu, Hawaii, while carrying about 3,500 Nissan vehicles from Japan, according to Honolulu’s Star Advertiser.
Mr Farah, who discusses cars for three hours each week on his show, said in an email that given the state of the world the loss of a Porsche seemed minor.
“There’s a global pandemic that people just want to pretend doesn’t exist and move on, and we’re about to have World War III,” he wrote before the ship does not sink. “I feel way worse about these things than I do about my stupid car.”
Michael Levenson contributed report.