EVs Burning On Cargo Ship Carrying VW, Porsche And Bentley Cars (Updated)

All 22 crew aboard the ship were safely evacuated; EVs have not been conclusively determined as the source of the blaze

Felicity Ace burning, carrying VW Group cars
The Felicity Ace is currently adrift and burning near the Azores Islands in the Atlantic, as of February 17. (Image: Sal Mercogliano, via YouTube screenshot)

Update 2/18/2022: Captain of the port of Hortas Joao Mendes Cabecas said Friday that lithium-ion batteries in electric cars onboard the ship have caught fire. That sort of blaze requires special equipment to extinguish, though that has not been ruled as the source of the fire. What actually caused the fire which is now burning “from one end to the other” is unknown.

Cabecas says “everything is on fire about five meters above the water line.” The large ship will be towed to a European country or the Bahamas, with three tow boats from Gibraltar and the Netherlands set to arrive at the Felicity Ace by the middle of next week.

This cargo ship fire reportedly claimed some VW and Porsche cars, though it’s not clear how many are unsalvageable.

On Wednesday, the car-hauling cargo ship Felicity Ace issued a distress warning near the Azores Islands, after a fire broke out on one of its decks. Fortunately, before getting into the details of the vehicles that may be on board, all 22 crew aboard the ship have reportedly evacuated without any injuries. The Panama-flagged ship is still ablaze as of mid-day Thursday.

The ship set out from Emden, Germany on February 10, and was bound for a port in Davisville, Rhode Island by February 23. Reports after the incident occurred confirm a number of Volkswagen Group vehicles — including VWs, Porsches, Audis and some 189 Bentleys, according to the Drive — were being transported. At this moment, it remains to be seen how many vehicles aboard were directly impacted by the fire, but we will come back with an update when that information emerges.

After the Portuguese Navy first responded to the distress call, merchant vessels including the Greek tanker Resilient Warrior converged on the scene, with that ship rescuing the crew. Since then, helicopters have picked up at least half of those crew members and transported them to Faial Island in the Azores.

More on those affected by the fire

The 650-foot-long Felicity Ace can transport up to 4,000 vehicles, with some coming forward to note that their car was aboard for that voyage. One particular case involves journalist Matt Farah with The Smoking Tire, who tweeted that his Porsche 718 Boxster Spyder was indeed on the ship:

Earlier today, Farah gave an update, saying that his dealer promised updates on exactly how Porsche will sort everything out. The automaker, for their part, told Car and Driver that they are (obviously) aware of the situation. It’s not the first time VW Group has encountered this problem, either: In 2019, cargo ship Grande America caught fire with four Porsche 911 GT2 RS cars, as well as more than 30 other Porsches and some two thousand Audis. For those limited edition cars, Porsche actually restarted production to build four additional cars in lieu of refunding the owners.

Again, we’re all still waiting for more details, so it may be some time before affected owners know about what happened to the car and what the process moving forward will be. Data site FleetMon is publishing periodic updates on the Felicity Ace‘s situation — and at least this particular fire did not claim a human toll.