A large cargo vessel carrying luxury cars from Germany to the United States sank Tuesday in the mid-Atlantic, 13 days after a fire broke out on board, the ship’s manager and the Portuguese navy said. The cars on board the Felicity Ace included Porsches, Lamborghinis and Bentleys, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Volkswagen, which said last week the damage to the vehicles was covered by insurance, confirmed the ship had sunk. Insurance experts said the incident could result in losses of $155 million, Reuters reported.
The Felicity Ace sank about 250 miles off Portugal’s Azores Islands as it was being towed, MOL Ship Management in Singapore said in a statement. A salvage team had put out the fire.
The 200-meter-long vessel listed to starboard before going under, the ship’s manager said.
Joao Mendes Cabecas, the captain of the nearest port on the island of Faial, told Reuters the ship sank as efforts to tow it began due to structural problems caused by the fire and rough seas.
“When the towing started … water started to come in,” he told Reuters. “The ship lost its stability and sank.”
The Portuguese navy confirmed the sinking, saying it occurred outside Portuguese waters at a depth of about 30,000 feet. A Portuguese Air Force helicopter evacuated the 22 crew members when the fire first broke out, setting the ship adrift.
Ocean-going tugboats with firefighting equipment had been hosing down the ship’s hull to cool it.
It wasn’t clear exactly how many cars were onboard the ship, but vessels of the Felicity Ace’s size can carry at least 4,000 vehicles.
European carmakers declined to discuss how many vehicles and what models were on board, but 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 was transporting electric and non-electric vehicles, according to Portuguese authorities. Suspicion on what started the fire on Feb. 16 has fallen on lithium batteries used in electric vehicles, though authorities say they have no firm evidence about the cause.
Authorities feared the ship could pollute the ocean. The ship was carrying 2,000 metric tons of fuel and 2,000 metric tons of oil. It can carry more than 17,000 metric tons of cargo.
The Portuguese navy said in a statement that only a few pieces of wreckage and a small patch of oil was visible where the ship went down. The tugboats were breaking up the patch with hoses, it said.
A Portuguese Air Force plane and a Portuguese navy vessel are to remain at the scene on the lookout for signs of pollution.
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