Two weeks after a fire broke out, a giant ship carrying thousands of luxury cars sank Tuesday morning 253 miles from the Azores, according to the company that operated the ship.
The ship, the Felicity ACE, touched down at about 9 a.m. local time after a starboard tilt, with about 4,000 cars – including more than 1,000 Porsches and 200 Bentleys – falling into the sea, According to the company, MOL Ship Management.
Environmental groups were very concerned that the ship would sink and about the pollution it would cause in the unique ecosystem of the Azores, the Portuguese archipelago in the North Atlantic, where the sea floor is covered with coral reefs, coral forests and sponges.
The area is home to sperm whales, blue whales, humpback whales, dolphins and sharks, among other species, according to Oceana, an environmental group.
A massive vessel like the Felicity Ace can hold more than three million liters of heavy fuel, as well as oil, according to Oceana. Other contaminants in the boat include electrical wires, paint, and plastic.
A fire broke out in the ship’s cargo six days after it left Emden, Germany, for the port of Davisville in Rhode Island. MOL Ship Management did not say how and why the fire started.
Nearby merchant ships and a helicopter rescued the ship’s 22 crew members. No one was injured during the evacuation.
But the 650-foot-tall Felicity Ice was still smoldering and smoldering far from the shores of Western Europe.
There were several attempts to put out the fire and assess the damage to the ship.
Pictures released by the Portuguese navy showed the ship engulfing in white smoke. One of the photos showed a smaller boat spraying water on the Felicity Ace. The middle section of the ship seemed to be burnt.
The Portuguese navy said on Friday that a team of experts had arrived by helicopter the day before. MOL Ship Management said a large salvage tugboat has begun towing Felicity Ace to a “safe area” off the Azores.
“The ship, apparently stable, has no fires outside or inside, though the central area is very hot, with no smoke in its hull,” The Navy said at the time.
But on Tuesday morning, while towing, the ship “lost stability and sank,” according to the Portuguese Navy.
The navy said a “small patch of oily residue” was visible and dispersed by water jets in the tugboats. The navy said in a statement that the area was being monitored by Portuguese and European environmental officials.
Angus Fitton, a spokesman for Porsche Cars North America, expressed satisfaction that members of the Felicity ES crew members are “safe and well” and said the company “supports our customers to the best of our ability.”
“We are already working to replace every car that is affected, and the first cars will be manufactured soon,” he said. Mr Fitton did not say when that would be.
One of the Porsches she was on was owned by Matt Farah, a car enthusiast and editor of The Smoking Tire.
He’s been waiting for the car, the metallic 2022 Boxster Spyder with a retail price of about $123,000, since August.
Mr. Farah Sum up the loss in his podcast: “Car. Boat. Shooting. Adrift. Like, that’s the whole story.”
Maritime specialists said that even if the ship had been rescued, the cars on board were likely to have been scrapped.
“Once you’re on a ship on fire, no one can tell you much about the safety of the vehicle,” said Richard Burke, professor and chair of marine and marine engineering at SUNY Maritime College. “So if you can’t do that, why would you agree to a warranty contract for that car?”
Mr. Farah agreed, in his podcast.
“If it is not fire,” he said, “it is molten lithium.” “If it’s not molten lithium, it’s smoke. And if it’s not smoke, it’s sea water.”
Dr. Burke noted that fires on car carriers can be very difficult to put out because ships typically carry thousands of vehicles and each vehicle contains a gallon of gasoline, a half gallon of motor oil and four rubber tires can burn.
“They are tough fires; they are horrible,” said Dr. Burke, adding, “Once the fire was out, the crew wouldn’t have much chance of putting out the fire.”
In December 2018, another 650-foot vehicle carrier, the Sincerity Ace, caught fire in the Pacific Ocean, about 2,000 miles northwest of Oahu, Hawaii, while transporting about 3,500 Nissan vehicles from Japan, according to the Honolulu Star Advertiser.
Mr. Farah, who discusses cars for three hours each week on his show, said in an email that given the state of the world, the loss of a Porsche seems minor.
He wrote before the shipwreck: “There is a global pandemic that people just want to pretend it doesn’t exist and move on, and we’re on the cusp of World War III.” “I feel so much worse about these things than I do about my stupid car.”
Michael Levinson Contribute to the preparation of reports.
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