February 21, 2022
LISBON (Reuters) – A fire which swept through a cargo ship carrying thousands of luxury cars and adrift off the coast of Portugal’s Azores islands has lost its intensity, probably because there is little left to burn, a port official said.
The Felicity Ace, carrying around 4,000 vehicles including Porsches, Audis and Bentleys, some 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 fire has subsided in recent hours,” João Mendes Cabeças, captain of the nearest port in the Azorean island of Faial, told Lusa news agency, saying there was probably little combustible material left to burn.
Cabeças told Reuters over the weekend lithium-ion batteries in the electric vehicles were “keeping the fire alive”, adding that specialist equipment was required to extinguish it. It was not clear whether the batteries sparked the fire.
He also said the fire was spreading closer to the ship’s fuel tanks.
“Our concern has been with pollution since the ship has large amounts of fuel on board and car batteries but so far there are no hotbeds of pollution,” Cabeças told Lusa.
As the fire’s intensity ebbs, firefighting teams and technicians might be able to board the vessel to prepare towing it to either Europe or the Bahamas, Cabeças said.
Volkswagen, which owns the brands, did not confirm the total number of cars on board and said on Friday it was awaiting further information.
It did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the next steps to identify the cause of the fire.
(Reporting by Catarina Demony in Lisbon and Victoria Waldersee in Berlin; Editing by Nick Macfie)