Luxury cars

Firefighters rush to save a burning ship with more than 4,000 luxury cars on board

Lisbon: Firefighters are struggling to put out a fire that broke out on Wednesday on a ship carrying thousands of luxury cars, which is adrift off the Portuguese islands of the Azores, a port official said, adding that it was unclear when they would succeed.

The Felicity Ace vessel, carrying around 4,000 vehicles including Porsches, Audis and Bentleys, some of them electric with lithium-ion batteries, caught fire in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday. The 22 crew members on board were evacuated the same day.

“The intervention (to extinguish the fire) must be done very slowly,” João Mendes Cabeças, captain of the nearest port to the Azorean island of Faial, told Reuters on Saturday. “It will take a while.”

Lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles on board “keep the fire going”, Cabeças said, adding that specialized equipment to put it out was on the way.

It was unclear whether the batteries started the fire.

Volkswagen, which owns the brands, did not confirm the total number of cars on board and said on Friday it was awaiting further information. The ship’s manager Mitsui OSK Lines Ltd did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cabeças had previously said that “everything was on fire about five meters above the waterline” and that the fire was still far from the ship’s fuel tanks. It’s getting closer, he said.

“The fire spread lower,” he said, explaining that crews could only fight the fire from the outside by cooling the ship’s structure because it was too dangerous to board.

They also can’t use water because adding weight to the ship could make it more unstable, and traditional water extinguishers don’t prevent lithium-ion batteries from burning out, Cabeças said.

The Panamanian-flagged ship will be towed to a country in Europe or to the Bahamas, but it’s unclear when that will happen.