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ALL OFF BOARD

A cargo ship carrying Porsche and VW cars caught fire and sank

New Volkswagen cars line up outside a transport ship.
Reuters/Christian Charisius
Lost at sea.
By Courtney Vinopal
Published Last updated

Update: The ship sank on March 1.

A car transport ship carrying thousands of Porsche and Volkswagen (VW) cars to the US caught fire and drifted into the mid-Atlantic on Feb. 16, according to the Portuguese Navy.

While 22 crew members on board the ships were evacuated, the fate of the vehicles onboard is uncertain. The ship, called the Felicity Ace, is capable of transporting 4,000 vehicles at a time, according to a statement from VW.

How the Felicity Ace ended up adrift

The transport ship was en route to the port of Davisville, Rhode Island from Emden, Germany when it issued a distress signal regarding a reported fire in one of its cargo decks.

Rescued crew members were transported to Portugal’s Failal Island. The Felicity Ace, meanwhile, is adrift in the mid-Atlantic waiting to be towed to the nearest shelter, according to the vessel tracking website FleetMon.

Shortly after the accident was reported, car blogger Matt Farah said he received a call from his dealer informing him the Porsche he had ordered was on board. Porsche customers on internet forums also began to speculate their orders had been affected.

Volkswagen Group, which owns Porsche, acknowledged in a statement the Felicity Ace was transporting its vehicles but didn’t specify how US customers would be affected. A spokesperson for Porsche told Quartz it was in contact with the shipping company, and that it still has no details of what happened to the cars.

He said it’s too early to determine Porsche’s next steps, but added the company is committed to “supporting our customers and our dealers as best we can to find solutions.”

Another supply chain snag

If the vehicles onboard Felicity Ace were damaged, it could present another headache for Volkswagen as it works through ongoing supply chain snarls tied to the coronavirus pandemic. The automaker delivered 4.5% fewer cars last year compared to 2020, and said last month it expects supply chain bottlenecks to remain volatile during the first half of this year.

Porsche, at least, has some experience managing a fiasco like this, albeit on a relatively small scale: It restarted production to replace four $300,000 sports cars lost at sea in 2019.

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