Firefighters struggle with burning electric vehicles aboard Felicity Ace

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.

Adis Ajdin

Adis is an experienced news reporter with a background in finance, media and education. He has written across the spectrum of offshore energy and ocean industries for many years and is a member of International Federation of Journalists. Previously he had written for Navingo media group titles including Offshore Energy, Subsea World News and Marine Energy.


  1. Is the current minimum required water discharge density for deluge/wet pipe/dry pipe of fixed water-based fire-fighting systems for ro-ro spaces and special category spaces are sufficient to extinguish a lithium battery powered vehicle fire, especially if there are multiple lithium battery powered vehicles stowed adjacent and the fire spreads through?

  2. Dear Shashi Kallada,

    Blunt answer, No an EV-fire takes around approx 25m3 of water to put out with conventional means, you can bring it down to 2,5m2 with the right equipment and strategy. That is also why Lloyds Register and the German transportation ministry including many other industry stakeholders have sought to investigate the safety of the Alternative Fuelled Vehicles on RO-RO/PAX spaces, in a two-year project called Albero. You can find the results and description of the research work packages here:


    Asger Schliemann-Haug, Systems Engineering Specialist, Lloyds Register, Technical Policy.

  3. Third sentence in the Felicity Ace article:

    “The drifting ship remains stable, and no pollution has been reported.”

    Pay no attention to the deadly toxic smoke. It’s not pollution. It’s just smoke from a fire.

    Corporate speak much Adjin. Don’t look up man. JFC.

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