Lithium-ion battery packs are believed to have kept a fire burning for nine days on a cargo ship carrying 3,965 electric vehicles.
The Panama-flagged ship Felicity Ace caught alight on 16 February near the Azores islands in the Atlantic Ocean on its way to the US with a cargo of Volkswagen Group vehicles under brands including: VW, Porsche, Audi and Lamborghini.
Two tugboats arrived on scene from Gibraltar on 22 February, and sprayed the vessel with water to achieve hull and boundary cooling; the fire was extinguished by 25 February.
The cause of the fire is still unknown.
The intervention to put out the blaze had to be done very slowly, while the lithium-ion batteries in the electric vehicles kept the fire alive, João Mendes Cabeças, captain of the nearest port in the Azorean island of Faial, told news outlet Reuters on 19 February.
A statement on the Felicity Ace Incident Information Centre website read: “All appropriate authorities were immediately alerted and with the assistance from commercial ships and a navy helicopter in the area, all 22 crew members were safely evacuated from the ship and taken ashore.”
MOL Ship management Singapore, the managers of the Felicity Ace, reported on 25 February there was no oil leakage from the vessel, and the vessel remained stable, with smoke no longer visible.
A salvage team boarded the ship via helicopter, before it was towed by the salvage craft ‘Bear’ to a safe area off Azores; two tugs, together with a large salvage craft with additional firefighting capability, escorted the vessel.
MOL and the salvage team are cooperating with authorities and resources from the Azores to find an early solution to this incident.
Luke Vandezande, a spokesperson for Porsche, said the company estimates around 1,100 of its vehicles were among those on board the ship.
The blaze is believed to have burned throughout several decks of the ship, many of which contained the EVs electric cars powered by lithium-ion batteries.