Massive cargo ship carrying luxury cars sinks in mid-Atlantic

Smoke billows from a burning car transport ship, as seen from the Portuguese Navy NPR Setubal ship.
Smoke billows from the burning Felicity Ace car transport ship as seen from the Portuguese Navy NPR Setubal ship southeast of the mid-Atlantic Portuguese Azores Islands.
(Portuguese Navy)

A large cargo vessel carrying 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 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 650-foot-long vessel listed to starboard before going under, the ship’s manager said.

The Portuguese navy confirmed the sinking, saying it occurred outside Portuguese waters. A Portuguese air force helicopter evacuated the 22 crew members when the fire broke out, setting the ship adrift.


Oceangoing tugboats with firefighting equipment had been hosing down the ship’s hull to cool it.

It wasn’t clear 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 nonelectric 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 2,200 tons of fuel and 2,200 tons of oil. It can carry more than 18,700 tons of cargo.


The Portuguese navy said in a statement that only a few pieces of wreckage and a small patch of oil were 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.