US-bound ro-ro burns in North Atlantic; crew rescued

(LISBON, Portugal) — A ship carrying about 4,000 vehicles — including Porsches, Audis and Bentleys — that caught fire near the coast of the Azores will be towed to another European country or the Bahamas, the captain of the nearest port told Reuters on Friday.

The 22 crewmembers aboard Felicity Ace were evacuated on Wednesday when the fire broke out about 90 nautical miles southwest of the island of Faial in the Azores. No injuries were reported, the Portuguese navy said in a prepared statement.

Smoke rises from Felicity Ace on Wednesday near the Azores. Portuguese navy photo

Lithium-ion batteries in electric cars on board the roll-on/roll-off ship (ro-ro) have ignited and the fire requires special equipment to extinguish, said Capt. Joao Mendes Cabecas of the Port of Horta. It was not clear whether the batteries caused the fire.

“The ship is burning from one end to the other … everything is on fire about 5 meters above the water line,” Cabeças said.

Cabecas said Felicity Ace could not be towed to the Azores because it was so big it would block trade at the port.

A team from Smit Salvage, owned by Dutch marine engineer Boskalis, was sent to the ship to help control the flames.

The Panama-flagged ship, owned by Snowscape Car Carriers SA and managed by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd., was en route from Emden, Germany, to Davisville, R.I., when the fire started.




By Rich Miller