Cargo ship carrying cars to U.S. catches fire, is adrift in mid-Atlantic without crew


LISBON, Portugal — A burning car transport ship drifted in the mid-Atlantic on Thursday after the huge vessel’s 22 crew members were evacuated due to the blaze, the Portuguese navy said.

Shipping in the area was warned that the 650-feet-long Felicity Ace was adrift near Portugal’s Azores Islands after the crew were taken off on Wednesday, Portuguese navy spokesman Cmdr. José Sousa Luís said.

The Felicity Ace can carry more than 18,700 tons of cargo. Typically, car transport ships fit thousands of vehicles on multiple decks in their hold.

The Felicity Ace car carrier on fire approximately 90 miles from the island of Faial, Azores, on Feb 17, 2022.Marinha Portuguesa

Volkswagen Group said in a brief statement the Felicity Ace was transporting to the U.S. vehicles that the German automaker produced. The company declined to comment on what consequences the incident might have for U.S. customers or the VW Group.

The ship’s operator, Japan’s Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, said in an email to the AP it could not provide information about the cargo.

A Portuguese navy ship sailed to the vehicle transporter, which was sailing from Emden in Germany to the port of Davisville in the U.S. state of Rhode Island, according to online vessel trackers. A navy statement said the fire was still burning and showed a photograph of large clouds of white smoke billowing out.

The navy ship was to check whether the cargo vessel was in danger of sinking or causing pollution, Sousa Luís told The Associated Press.

The ship’s owner is seeking an ocean-going tug, but the Felicity Ace is unlikely to be towed to a port in Portugal’s Azores Islands because of its size, Sousa Luis said.

The crew were taken by helicopter on Wednesday to Faial island on the archipelago, about 100 miles away, and are staying at a hotel there. None of them was hurt.

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