The stricken ship Felicity Ace sank overnight after a week of salvage efforts ultimately proved unsuccessful. The ship, which was carrying up to 4,000 VW Group cars, went to the bottom unexpectedly while a salvage team was attempting to tow it to shore, Bloomberg reports.
“Initial reports from the local salvage team state that the vessel had sunk at around 9AM local time having suffered a list to starboard,” Mitsui O.S.K. Lines transportation company (MOL), which owns the Felicity Ace, said in a statement released early Tuesday.
“The last vessel position was around 220nm off the Azores,” MOL said. “The salvage crafts will remain around the area to monitor the situation. Further information will be provided as it becomes available.”
The ship sank after being battered by waves and listing 45 degrees to starboard, the ship’s operator said.
“The weather was pretty rough out there,” Pat Adamson, a spokesperson for MOL Ship Management (Singapore), a unit of Mitsui OSK Lines Ltd., said by phone. “And then she sank, which was a surprise.”
VW, Porsche, Audi, Bentley and Lamborghini-branded models were aboard the ship, which was headed to Rhode Island from Germany’s Emden port when the fire broke out on Feb. 16.
Rough seas and ongoing fires fueled by the lithium-ion batteries of EVs onboard delayed the ship’s salvage and recovery operations for the better part of a week. While the likelihood of salvaging the smoke and potentially fire- and water-damaged vehicles from Felicity Ace’s hold was slim to none, some had held out hope that their special-ordered vehicles might survive the mishap.
The Panama-flagged Felicity Ace was safely evacuated of its 22 crew members by the Portuguese navy after a fire started in its hold more than a week ago. The ship can carry up to 4,000 cars. European carmakers declined to discuss how many vehicles and what models were on board, but it appears to have been transporting approximately 2,500 cars, including roughly 1,100 Porsches and an undetermined number of Volkswagens.
The cars aboard were on order. Porsche customers in the United States were being contacted by their dealers, the company said.
“We are already working to replace every car affected by this incident and the first new cars will be built soon,” Angus Fitton, vice president of PR at Porsche Cars North America, Inc., told The Associated Press in an email.
The ship sank in water nearly 10,000 feet deep, the Portuguese Navy said. A small oil slick was being disbursed by water cannons from tow vessels. Authorities feared the ship could pollute the ocean. It was carrying 2,200 tons of fuel and 2,200 tons of oil.
Approximately $438 million worth of goods were aboard the ship — $401 million of which were cars. Insurance will cover the loss.