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A Burning Cargo Ship Adrift in the Mid-Atlantic Bares Bad News for Some

Note: This article may contain commentary or the author's opinion.

If you recently bought a brand new luxury car directly from Germany then you might have to wait a while to receive it. A cargo ship delivering Porsches, Lamborghinis, Volkwagen, and several other luxury cars en route to the United States on Thursday was floating ablaze in the middle of the Atlantic.

Over 1,000 Porsches were burned to the crisp along with 3,965 Volkswagen cars. There were also dozens of Lamborghinis and Audis— which were also completely destroyed in the fire and are no longer salvageable. Capt. Joao Mendes Cabecas of the seaport of Hortas claimed that the lithium-ion batteries in the electric cars on board had caught fire and that the incident would need specialized equipment to extinguish the cargo ship.

Seamen of the 650-foot-long Felicity Ace were evacuated from the cargo vessel to a motel in the Azores Islands, according to the country’s armed forces, since the ship was floating 100 miles away from the Portuguese island. There were no injuries among the 22 sailors, which is the best part of the story considering luxury cars can be replaced people cannot.

According to authorities, the ship was still blazing and spewing puffs of thick smoke when a Portuguese naval ship approached to determine if it was at risk of sinking, according to the report.

ABC reported what Luxury brand dealer Porsche had to say about the fire:

“Our immediate thoughts are of relief that the 22 crew of the merchant ship ‘Felicity Ace’ are safe and well,” Porsche said in a statement. “We are in contact with the shipping company and the details of the cars on board are now known. While it remains too early to confirm what occurred and next steps, we are – along with our colleagues at Porsche AG – supporting our customers and our dealers as best we can to find solutions.”

When one lithium-ion battery has been ignited, it is very difficult to extinguish the fire. Initially, fire affects the structures that divide the chemicals that provide the energy for a battery to operate. This often results in unexpected re-ignition even after the first flame has been extinguished. So if you have ever had a birthday cake with trick candles you can imagine the frustration of firefighters when they are attempting to put out fires called by electric vehicles.

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A large amount of water is often required, and after the initial fire has been extinguished, the typical practice is to isolate the afflicted vehicle from anything combustible and to apply more water or fire suppressant as necessary. In order to reduce the possibility of a re-ignition, fire workers may sometimes put a burning battery inside a large water tank.

On a packed cargo ship, none of these options is feasible. No matter how much money you had to throw at the problem or how much time you had to spend worrying about the environmental ramifications of tossing the car overboard, there is typically no way to move or expel the cargo while the ship is in motion. So, as of now, the Felicity Ace will be floating in the Atlantic until the flames put out themselves.