The director of the ship and the Portuguese navy said that a large cargo ship carrying cars from Germany to the United States sank Tuesday in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, 13 days after a fire broke out on board.
MOL Ship Management in Singapore said in a statement that the Felicity Ice sank 400 kilometers (250 miles) off Portugal’s Azores islands while towing. The rescue team put out the fire.
The ship’s manager said the 200-meter (650-foot) vessel was listed to starboard before it sank.
The Portuguese Navy confirmed the sinking, saying it happened outside Portuguese waters. A Portuguese Air Force helicopter evacuated 22 crew members when the fire first broke out, swerving the ship.
Ocean-going tugs with fire-fighting equipment washed the ship’s hull with hoses to cool it.
It was not clear how many cars were on board, but ships the size of the Felicity Ace could carry at least 4,000 vehicles.
European automakers declined to discuss how many cars and models were on board, but Porsche customers in the United States were approached by their dealers, the company said.
“We are already working on replacing every car affected by this accident and the first new cars will be manufactured soon,” Angus Fitton, vice president of public relations for Porsche Cars North America, told The Associated Press in an email.
Portuguese authorities said the ship was transporting electric and non-electric cars. Suspicion about the cause of the fire on February 16 fell on lithium batteries used in electric cars, although authorities say they have no conclusive evidence of the cause.
Authorities fear the ship could pollute the ocean. The ship was carrying 2,000 metric tons (2,200 tons) of fuel and 2,000 metric tons (2,200 tons) of oil. It can carry more than 17,000 metric tons (18,700 tons) of cargo.
The Portuguese navy said in a statement that a few pieces of wreckage and a small piece of oil were visible where the ship had fallen. She added that the locomotives were breaking the spot with hoses.
A Portuguese Air Force plane and a Portuguese Navy ship will remain at the scene, looking for signs of contamination.
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