Last Wednesday, some crew members of the auto tanker Felicity Egg noticed a plume of smoke rising from the parking lot. The ship was on its way from Europe to Davisville in the United States and was off the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores. The car was fully loaded with 4,000 VW Group vehicles, including 1,100 Porsche and 189 luxury Bentleys. The 22 crew members soon realized that extinguishing was impossible and left the ship. They were captured by a tanker sailing nearby. Then the Portuguese Navy transported the crew by helicopter to the Azores.
Six days after the ship caught fire, the flames are still burning. This is due to the large number of electric cars on board – including ID3s, e-Trons and electric Porsches. If a large lithium-ion battery catches fire, it is very difficult to put out. Usually, the fire service submerges a burning electric vehicle in a bowl of water. This is impossible if the car is on a ship in the middle of the ocean, and in a wide shock absorber with burning other electric cars.
The cause of the fire is not yet known. There is a real chance that an electric car caught fire spontaneously. A week and a half ago, an ID3 caught fire in the parking garage of the building where De Standaard is located.
A spokesman for Boskalis in the Netherlands confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that “the fire continues because of the batteries that are still burning.” Smit Company, a subsidiary of Boskalis, is responsible for the firefighting work and towing the era of happiness. Boskalis was the company that offloaded the Ever Given cargo into the Suez Canal. A Boscalis spokesman said it was too early to say how to extinguish burning cars and how to prevent the ship from sinking.
The fire again is not good news for the auto sector. For concerns like Volkswagen, the disaster comes at a time when it is already running short of parts. If 4,000 cars are lost in a ship fire, that will increase the production backlog. For a brand like Porsche, 1,100 cars represent about 0.3 percent of annual production (300,000 cars annually).
It also raises questions about the safety of the electric vehicle. If the cause is spontaneous ignition, then the continued occurrence of such fires on motor ships cannot be excluded. Ships must be additionally secured for this purpose. For large container ships too, the question arises whether they would be easy to put out if one of the stacked containers on the upper deck (which is difficult for sprinklers to reach) caught fire and spread to other containers.