The Portugese Navy has confirmed this morning that one of its patrol boats came to the aid of the Felicity Ace, a car carrier transiting the Atlantic Ocean, as reported by the Washington Post. The vessel transmitted a distress signal after fire broke out in one of the cargo decks, with the ship announced as “not under command” shortly afterwards. Thankfully, the 22 crew on board have been reported as successfully evacuated from the ship.
The Felicity Ace had departed from the port in Emden, Germany on February 10, believed to be carrying vehicles from Porsche and other Volkswagen Auto Group brands, among others. The ship was originally expected to arrive at Davisville, Rhode Island on the morning of February 23.
After transmitting the distress signal on Wednesday morning, the Panama-flagged ship was quickly reached by the Portugese Navy patrol boat as well as four merchant ships in the area. According to Naftika Chronika, the crew of the Felicity Ace left the ship on a lifeboat and were picked up by Resilient Warrior, a tanker operated by Greek company Polembros Shipping Limited. Reportedly, 11 of the crew have so far have been picked up from the Resilient Warrior by a Portugese Navy helicopter. Efforts to bring the situation under control are ongoing according to reports from the scene.
The Felicity Ace was built in 2005, measuring 656 feet long and 104 feet wide, with a carrying capacity of 17,738 tons. Fully loaded, the ship could carry nearly 4,000 vehicles. No details are currently available as to the cause of the fire, other than that it broke out in the ship’s cargo hold.
In a statement, Porsche stated that “Our immediate thoughts are of the 22 crew of the merchant ship ‘Felicity Ace,’ all of whom we understand are safe and well as a result of their rescue by the Portuguese Navy following reports of a fire on board.” The company advised concerned customers to liaise with their dealers, noting that “We believe a number of our cars are among the cargo on board the ship. No further details of the specific cars affected are available at this time – we are in close contact with the shipping company and will share more information in due course.”
Some Porsche customers may be particularly concerned if their limited-edition cars have been damaged and destroyed in the incident. The company has in the past made efforts to remanufacture limited-edition cars, such as the Porsche 911 GT2 RS, when a number were lost when a cargo ship sank back in 2019.
Volkswagen, meanwhile, stated that “We are aware of an incident today involving a cargo ship transporting Volkswagen Group vehicles across the Atlantic,” adding that “At this time, we are not aware of any injuries. We are working with local authorities and the shipping company to investigate the cause of the incident.”
With the automotive industry already struggling with supply chain issues, this incident will come as a further blow. Similarly, when a ship’s name is all over the news, it’s rarely for a good reason, as we all learned when the Ever Given blocked the Suez Canal last year. However, the good thing to take away from this story is that nobody has been hurt, and the crew were rescued safely. Some cars may have been lost, which will cause much pain and frustration, but any cars damaged will hopefully be replaced in good time.