Cost of Felicity Ace Ro/Ro Fire Could Top $400 Million

felicity ace
Felicity Ace, Feb. 18 (Portuguese Navy)

Published Feb 21, 2022 10:14 PM by The Maritime Executive

The estimated cost of the Felicity Ace fire may be far greater than previously believed due to the high value of the luxury cars in her vehicle holds, according to an independent insurance consultancy. 

The ship was carrying roughly 4,000 cars, including Lamborghinis, Audis and VWs, based on an internal Volkswagen Group email obtained by German media. The manifest included 1,100 Porsches and about 190 Bentleys, many of them custom-ordered by buyers in the U.S.

Risk consultancy Russell Group estimates that the total value of the vehicles on board exceeds $400 million, plus another $38 million in non-vehicle goods. Assuming that the vessel and her cargo are a total loss, the event is expected to create at least $155 million in losses for VW Group, according to an analysis by Russell.

“These figures showed once again the precariousness of global supply chains. The incident comes at a bad time for global carmakers who are in the middle of a supply chain crisis sourcing semiconductors, resulting in new delays for new cars. An event like this will not do a great deal in instilling trust with consumers," said Suki Basi, Russell Group's managing director. 

The Felicity Ace under way from Emden, Germany -  a major loading port for Volkswagen brands - to Davisville, Rhode Island, and a fire broke out while she was transiting south of the Azores. Her master called for an evacuation on February 16, and the crew was safely rescued by a merchant tanker and transferred to shore. 

The ro/ro is still adrift and burning south of the Azores, and she is drifting further away from the islands, according to operator MOL. The vessel remains stable and no oil pollution has been reported. 

Two large tugs with firefighting equipment were scheduled to arrive Monday morning, and they will begin spraying cooling water on the Felicity Ace's hull. An additional salvage vessel with more firefighting equipment is under way from Rotterdam and should arrive on February 26. 

"Together with the all relevant parties, MOL is making every effort to contain the damage and resolve the situation as soon as possible," the company said in a statement. 

An unspecified number of the vehicles are all-electric, battery-powered cars. The captain of the nearby port of Faial told Reuters that the presence of lithium-ion batteries on board is complicating the firefighting effort. Water does not extinguish a Li-ion battery fire, and the fumes from a burning battery are toxic and potentially explosive. The battery packs are "keeping the fire alive," captain of the port João Mendes Cabeças told Reuters.