The 6,400 ceu Felicity Ace continues to burn off the coast of Portugal’s Azores islands with thousands of cars on board.
The Panama-flagged ship caught fire last Wednesday while on its way from Emden, Germany to Rhode Island, US. The drifting ship remains stable, and no pollution has been reported, MOL Shipmanagement Singapore said in an update. All of the crewmembers were evacuated safely.
Out of around 4,000 vehicles, an unspecified number are all-electric, battery-powered. Although it is not clear if the lithium-ion batteries first sparked the fire, they have been ignited and the blaze requires specialist equipment to extinguish, a local port official told Reuters, adding that “the battery packs are “keeping the fire alive”.
London-based law firm Watson Farley & Williams said in a recent report that although it is not clear whether electric vehicles are more likely than ICE vehicles to catch fire, it is common ground that the consequences are potentially more disastrous and more difficult to handle.
“If crews are not aware that fighting an EV fire requires a different technique to that employed in fighting a conventional fire onboard, it is easy to see how an incident could lead to a total loss. The evidence indicates that current suppression and drenching systems will not be sufficient for this new risk. New systems will need to be devised and incorporated into ship design,” stated the law firm.
MOL said it had arranged additional salvage and firefighting teams to support the 16-year-old vessel. One large tug with firefighting equipment arrived from Gibraltar, while a second tug, also from Gibraltar, is expected to support the operation today. In addition, a salvage craft with firefighting equipment is set to arrive from Rotterdam on February 23 or 24.