Valuable automotive RoRo vessel abandoned mid-Atlantic – and it is fully loaded

The Felicity Ace, a specialist RoRo vessel owned by MOL, was en route from Germany to the USA, with 4,000 Volkswagen AG vehicles aboard, when it caught fire near the Azores Islands in the Atlantic Ocean last week. The  Portuguese Air Force were the first to arrive at the stricken vessel, air-lifting off the crew and leaving the Felicity Ace to float mid-Atlantic, awaiting the arrival of fire-fighter tugs.
The RoRo ship was carrying about 4,000 Volkswagen AG vehicles, which could cost the brand at least $155 million, according to risk-modelling estimates, with Volkswagen, Porsche, Audi, Bentley and Lamborghini models on the vessel. Auto manufacturers other than VW may have lost about $246 million worth of vehicles.
Two large tugs with firefighting equipment rendezvoused with the Felicity Ace earlier this week to start spraying water and work with an initial salvage team that was already on board to cool down the ship.
No oil leakage has been detected, the vessel remains stable and MOL is expected to set up a website to provide updates on the incident.
This latest incident underlines once again the precariousness of global supply chains and the critical need for appropriate marine insurance cover.
The loss of so many vehicles and critical RoRo capacity – which could be the equivalent of 100k vehicles p.a. until the ship returns – comes at a bad time for global carmakers who are in the middle of a supply chain crisis sourcing semiconductors, resulting in extended delays for new cars and is likely to result in rate hikes, on a transport mode that was already massively over-subscribed.
The fire on the Felicity Ace could drive a marine re/insurance market loss of $500 million and while shipping losses have declined over the past 10 years, analysis shows that fires onboard vessels remain one of the main safety concerns and have actually increased in recent years.
There are no customers’ products on this vessel but we are well prepared to provide assistance in air freighting replacement vehicles to their destinations to ensure demand is satisfied. We move huge numbers of vehicles every year globally by all modes and always consider and deliver available solutions in the current global market, within the automotive vertical, regardless of the challenges.
Carriers like MOL operate under conditions that limit their liability and may even require you to compensate them, in certain circumstances. Any compensation you may eventually receive is likely to be considerably lower than your actual loss.
We recommend and offer All Risk marine insurance cover that protects your cargo during every stage of transportation and storage, on a per shipment or annual cover basis, to the full value of the goods.
Our specialist teams coordinate the end to end movement of vehicles and machinery around the world.
Long-standing partnerships and volume agreements with the leading RoRo carriers and container shipping lines mean we can offer the widest choice of services, routes and solutions.
For further information please contact Tom Fernihough, our Automotive Director, for the latest advice and market news relating to the global supply chain of finished vehicles.