Freighter sinks with hold full of German cars

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After two weeks of smoldering in the Atlantic Ocean, a freighter loaded with several thousand German automobiles sank. Packed with more than 4,000 Volkswagen Group vehicles, the Felicity As (pictured) initially gained notoriety for being a successful fire rescue mission conducted in open waters. But it was later revealed that many of the cars on board were high-end products from brands like Audi, Porsche, Bentley and Lamborghini, which made the subsequent rescue operation interesting as well.

Due to the vastness of the Felicity As, it would have to be towed several hundred nautical miles to Portugal in order to be serviced. The crews would have arrived on February 25 to assess the ship and prepare it for the return to the East. However, the freighter began to list until it began to fall on its starboard side and is now considered unsalvageable. It is assumed that the craft will sink near its current position, about 220 nautical miles from the Portuguese Azores, taking its cargo of vehicles with it for the journey.

Although it was difficult to obtain timely or verifiable information about the vessel, he has a website dedicated to giving updates on his current status. Singapore’s MOL Ship Management helped organize the rescue operation, the Felicity As is Panamanian-flagged, the Portuguese Navy and Air Force were responsible for the initial rescue and the tugs are mainly from the Netherlands.

The original plan was to use a large lifeboat, called Bear, to bring the ship closer to the Azores so that it can be inspected more thoroughly before being towed to the shores of Portugal. Assistance was provided by the ALP Guard and Kingdom of Dian tugs, which flanked the ship. Although the ship continued to smoke for several days, it was assumed that the fire was dying out. The salvage crews had been flooding the ship with water for days and the Felicity As didn’t appear to have any oil leaks, making it eligible for the trip.

But it started trading Tuesday morning, assuming it’s only a matter of time before it crashes. Although this would be a significant setback for any automaker, the high number of premium vehicles has put the Volkswagen Group in a difficult position. There are rumors that the lost Lamborghinis will force the company to resume production of the V12 Aventador to fulfill existing orders. Several hundred custom Porsche and Bentley vehicles destined for North America will also need to be rebuilt.

The same goes for a group of Audi and VW-branded electric vehicles, although those cars were also going to be part of the ensuing fire investigation after rampant speculation that the blaze was created by their lithium ion batteries. Rescuers did not attribute the fire (first reported on February 16) to anything. But it was noted that the electric vehicle batteries could have exacerbated the problem, encouraging the media to ponder the possibility of a thermal runaway incident triggering the blaze.

It’s a plausible scenario, albeit one of many and still lacking hard evidence. Unfortunately, any useful information will likely fall with the ship – along with 189 Bentleys, over 1,000 Porsches, several dozen Lamborghinis and rows of VW and Audi products.

[Image: Marinha Portuguesa/Portuguese Navy]

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