Burnt out freighter carrying luxury cars adrift off the Azores
A car transport vessel carrying thousands of Porsches, Bentleys, Audis and other Volkswagen Group brands caught fire in the mid-Atlantic and went adrift off the Azores islands, as the Portuguese Navy rescued the 22 ship’s crew.
Shipping in the area was warned that the 200-meter-long (650-foot-long) Felicity Ace was adrift near the Portuguese Azores islands after the crew took off on Wednesday, the spokesman said. Portuguese Navy, Cmdr. says Jose Sousa Luis.
The Felicity Ace can carry over 17,000 metric tons (18,700 tons) of cargo. Typically, car transporter ships carry thousands of vehicles across multiple decks in their cargo hold, with the Felicity Ace able to carry over 4,000 vehicles.
The Volkswagen Group said in a brief statement that the Felicity Ace was transporting vehicles produced by the German automaker to the United States. The company declined to comment on what consequences the incident might have for US customers or the VW Group.
The operator of the Panamanian-flagged ship, Japan’s Mitsui OSK Lines, said in an email to The Associated Press (AP) that it could not provide information about the cargo.
Automotive and shipping websites reported that the ship was carrying 1,100 luxury Porsche vehicles and 200 Bentleys.
A Portuguese navy vessel sailed to the vehicle carrier, which was sailing from Emden in Germany to the port of Davisville in the US state of Rhode Island, according to online ship trackers. A navy statement said the fire was still burning and showed a photograph of large billowing clouds of white smoke.
The navy vessel had to check whether the cargo ship was in danger of sinking or causing pollution, Sousa Luis told AP.
The shipowner is looking for an ocean tug, but the Felicity Ace is unlikely to be towed to a port in the Azores in Portugal due to its size, Sousa Luis said.
The crew were taken by helicopter on Wednesday to the island of Faial in the archipelago, about 170 kilometers (100 miles) away, and are staying at a hotel there. None of them were injured.
The Russian and Filipino crew were first evacuated to the tanker Resilient Warrior, which was diverted to assist in the rescue operation, before being flown by military helicopter to Faial, RTP reported.
The Felicity Ace reported a fire in the hold while she was 90 nautical miles southwest of Faial. The fire “continued to spread” on Thursday, the captain of the port of Horta a Faial, Joao Manuel Mendes Cabecas, told public broadcaster RTP.
He added that tugs were due to arrive from Gibraltar on Monday to tow the giant vessel.