A burning freighter heading for RI could impact the auto industry

NORTH KINGSTOWN, RI (WPRI) – Rescue operations are underway in the Atlantic Ocean after a vehicle transport vessel bound for Rhode Island caught fire last week.

At last check, the 650-foot-long vessel, Felicity Ace, was still adrift in the middle of the ocean, about 100 miles from the Azores.

The vehicle carrier was making a transatlantic voyage from Germany to Davisville Port of Quonset in North Kingstown, but is unlikely to ever make it there.

About 1,500 vehicles aboard the ship were to be unloaded at the port, according to Quonset Development Corp. spokesman David Preston, who told 12 News they were expecting Volkswagens, Audis, Porsches and Bentleys.

The ship is believed to have had around four to five thousand vehicles on board, one of which is owned by Massachusetts auto dealer Ernie Boch Jr.

“I had ordered a Bentley. And when I saw on social media that the ship was in flames, and the types of vehicles that were there, I said, ‘No way the vehicle I ordered could be there. ” Indeed, it was,” Boch said.

On Monday, firefighters were still working to put out the blaze and a Portuguese port official told Reuters it will be a difficult operation due to the lithium-ion batteries inside the ship’s vehicles.

The crews cannot put out the fire with water as it could make the ship unstable, and due to the dangerous conditions on the burning ship, they are forced to fight the flames from outside.

On Wednesday, the Portuguese Navy rushed to rescue the 22 crew from the burning ship. No one was hurt.

The incident could have a major impact on the auto industry amid ongoing supply chain issues, according to Boch. He said the loss of all vehicles would be devastating to the industry, but he predicts the auto industry’s problems will improve as the year progresses.

“When stocks go up, prices go down,” he said. “There are things to do. You just have to be careful. You have to shop. »

It is not known how many vehicles were damaged or if any of the cargo can be salvaged.