Cargo Ship Goes Down With Hold Full of German Automobiles

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

After two weeks of smoldering in the Atlantic Ocean, a cargo ship loaded with several thousand German automobiles has sunk. Packed with over 4,000 vehicles from Volkswagen Group, the Felicity Ace (pictured) originally gained notoriety for being a successful fire rescue mission conducted in open waters. But it was later revealed that a large number of the cars onboard were higher-end products from brands like Audi, Porsche, Bentley, and Lamborghini — making the salvage operation that followed likewise engaging.

Due to the immense size of the Felicity Ace, it would need to be towed several hundred nautical miles back toward Portugal so it could be serviced. Crews reportedly arrived on February 25th to evaluate the ship and prepare it for the trip back East. However, the cargo vessel began listing until it started to fall onto its starboard side and is now deemed unsalvageable. It’s assumed that the craft will be sinking near its current position, roughly 220 nautical miles from off the Portuguese Azores, taking its vehicular cargo along for the ride.

While it’s been hard getting timely or verifiable information on the ship, it does have a website dedicated to giving updates on its present status. Singapore’s MOL Ship Management has been helping to organize the salvage operation, the Felicity Ace flies a Panamanian flag, the Portuguese Navy and Air Force were responsible for the initial rescue, and the tow vessels are primarily from the Netherlands.

The original plan was to use a large salvage craft, called Bear, to haul the ship closer to the Azores so that it could be more thoroughly inspected before being towed back to the coast of Portugal. Assistance was given by the ALP Guard and Dian Kingdom tugs, which flanked the ship. Despite the ship having continued smoking for a number of days, it was assumed that the fire was dying down. Rescue teams had been spraying the vessel with water for days and the Felicity Ace did not appear to be leaking oil, making it eligible for the trip.

But it started listing on Tuesday morning, with the assumption being that it’s just a matter of time before it goes down. While this would be a meaningful setback for any automaker, the high number of premium vehicles has put Volkswagen Group in a difficult position. There are rumors that the lost Lamborghinis will require the company to resume production of the V12 Aventador to make good on existing orders. Several hundred custom Porsche and Bentley vehicles headed for North America will also need to be built again.

The same goes for a gaggle of Audi and VW-branded electric vehicles, though those cars were also going to be part of the subsequent fire investigation after rampant speculation that the blaze was created by their lithium-ion batteries. Rescuers haven’t attributed the blaze (first reported on Feb. 16th) to anything. But it was noted that EV batteries could have exacerbated the problem, encouraging the media to muse over the possibility of a thermal runaway incident starting the fire.

It’s a plausible scenario, though one of many and still lacking any hard evidence. Sadly, any useful information will likely go down with the ship — along with 189 Bentleys, over 1,000 Porsches, several dozen Lamborghinis, and rows upon rows of VW and Audi products.

[Image: Marinha Portuguesa/Portuguese Navy]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Fendertweed Fendertweed on Mar 19, 2022

    Jeez, the libtard vs fecktard vs trumptard stuff is *so* old and *so* tired …

  • Rizziriz Rizziriz on Apr 10, 2022

    No one talks about the toxicity of making and disposing of Lithium Ion batteries. If people new they would never buy an electric car. Where are the environmentalist now ?

  • EBFlex At the summer property putting boats in the water, leveling boat lifts, cleaning the lots for summer, etc. Typical cabin stuff in the most beautiful place on the planet
  • Lou_BC I've I spent the past few days in what we refer to as "the lower mainland". I see Tesla's everywhere and virtually every other brand of EV. I was in downtown Vancouver along side a Rivian R1T. A Rivian R1S came off as side street and was following it. I saw one other R1S. 18% of new vehicles in BC are EV'S. It tends to match what I saw out my windshield. I only saw 2 fullsized pickups. One was a cool '91 3/4 ton regular cab. I ran across 2 Tacoma's. Not many Jeeps. There were plenty of Porches, Mercedes, and BMW's. I saw 2 Aston Martin DBX707's. It's been fun car watching other than the stress of driving in big city urban traffic. I'd rather dodge 146,000 pound 9 axle logging trucks on one lane roads.
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  • The Oracle Been out on the boat on Lake James (NC) and cooking up some hella good food here with friends at the lake place.
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