Cargo in flames, almost 4,000 Volkswagen group cars burn off the Azores

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The name, Ace of Happiness (Felicity Ace), did not do well either to the Japanese shipping company Mitsui OSK Lines, one of the largest in the world, or to the Volkswagen group, the second in the world behind the Japanese Toyota. For almost a week the cargo has been burning off the coast of the Azores, about 170 kilometers to the southwest, with its precious cargo. That is almost 4,000 vehicles (3,965, the number 4 does not appear: in Japan it brings bad luck) of various brands of the German giant: it would be 1,100 Porsches and 186 Bentleys, as well as some Lamborghinis, several Audi and several Volkswagens, including those of families ID. with zero emissions. Certainly on board there was a Porsche Boxster Spyder, the one purchased by the American youtuber journalist Matt Farah, who with his channel “The smoking tire” (“the smoking tire”, when fate says …) has over a million fans: “My car is swimming, probably on fire, in the middle of the ocean,” he tweeted.

The good news for the moment are two: the 22 crew members are safe and, at least for now, no spills have been detected at sea. For the group, the damages have been estimated at over 150 million euros, but the count has already been revised upwards and brought to 250. The problem is the extinguishing of the fire, complicated by the presence of electric models with lithium-ion batteries that according to the harbor master’s office they had helped to fuel the fire. In the last few hours the situation seems to have “improved” because, apparently, there would be no more flammable material.

Three years ago a similar fate had befallen the almost 2,000 cars of the group but not only (there were also some Maseratis) transported by the Grande America of Grimaldi Lines, which sank off the French coast on March 12, 2019. At the time Porsche had even the 911 GT2 RS was put back into production to keep the commitments towards its customers.

Felicity Ace, 17 years of service (200 meters long and over 32 wide), sailed in the late afternoon of February 10 from the port of Emden in northern Germany, 250 kilometers west of Hamburg, where Volkswagen has a production site. The alarm was raised by the ship’s captain six days later when the cargo was well away from its final destination, which is the port of Davisville, Rhode Island, an hour south of Boston.

In addition to the rescuers, the Portuguese Navy patrol boat “Setubal” also intervened on the spot. While the reasons for the fire still remain to be understood, technicians and experts are wondering how to intervene. Everything above 5 meters of the waterline burns and part of the bulkheads is practically melted. Water is not enough to put out the flames, certainly not those of electric car batteries, which represent the most delicate problem, also from an environmental point of view. Tugs are already on their way: the Felicity Ace should be towed either to the Bahamas or to a European port.

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