Ship transporting 189 Bentleys, 21 Lamborghinis, others to US cut fire may cost insurers over $500m

By Favour Nnabugwu
The fire that broke out on 16 February 2022 off the coast of the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores, carrying 189 Bentleys, 21 among other luxury cars is estimated to cost Insurers $500million

The Felicity Ace was on its way to the United States from Germany with nearly 4 000 luxury vehicles. The cargo included other cars as Porsches, Audis from the Volkswagen Group’s factories.

The vessel’s 22 crew members were evacuated but the fire continued to burn for several days, fuelled by lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles on board.

Insurance experts at Russell Group said on Monday they estimated that $438m of goods were on the ship, including an estimated $401m of cars and goods vehicles.

Suki Basi, the group’s managing director, said the incident would result in losses of at least $155m for Volkswagen, which owns Porsche, Audi, Bentley and Lamborghini.

“These figures showed once again the precariousness of global supply chains,” Basi said. “The incident comes at a bad time for global carmakers, who are in the middle of a supply chain crisis sourcing semiconductors, resulting in new delays for new cars. An event like this will not do a great deal in instilling trust with consumers.”

The ship’s operator, MOL Ship Management (Singapore), said on Monday that the vessel was “still assumed to remain on fire south of the Azores, drifting further away from the islands”.

It said two firefighting tugboats were due to arrive at the site of the ship on Monday and would “start spraying water to Felicity Ace together with the patrol boat with the initial salvage team onboard already on site to cool down the heat from the vessel”.

The company said the ship remained stable and was not leaking oil. Another salvage craft with firefighting equipment is due to arrive from Rotterdam on 26 February.

João Mendes Cabeças, the captain of the nearest port in the Azorean island of Faial, told Reuters over the weekend that 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.

Felicity Ace was travelling from Emden, Germany, where Volkswagen has a factory, to Davisville, Rhode Island, according to the website MarineTraffic.

VW has not commented on how many of its cars were on the ships. The automotive enthusiast website The Drive reported that the ship was carrying 189 Bentleys.

Ship manifests show that on a previous voyage last month it carried 21 Lamborghinis.