Felicity Ace Under Tow in First Phase of Salvage Operation
After drifting for more than a week, salvage crews were able to board the car carrier Felicity Ace. They have been able to secure the vessel with a towline and are beginning a multi-stage process to salvage the vessel. Previous attempts to board the vessel had been delayed by the persistence of the fire and rough seas.
The Portuguese Navy reports that a team was airlifted by a Portuguese Air Force helicopter and able to board the Felicity Ace at the end of day on February 24. Initial reports are that the fire has been extinguished with no visible flames or smoke coming from the vessel. However, the team reports that there remain high temperatures, especially in the midships section.
The salvage tug Bear, a 2,800 dwt vessel with 187 tons bollard pull, secured the towline to the hulk, the first since the fire began on February 16. The current plan is to reposition the Felicity Ace to approximately 60 nautical miles southeast of the island of Faial in the Azores. The Portuguese Navy’s last update on the ship’s position earlier in the week said the vessel had drifted to approximately 195 nautical miles south of Faial.
Once the vessel has been repositioned, a second team of experts will be transported to the vessel aboard a private helicopter. They will then make a plan for the next phase of the salvage. Previously, the Captain of the Port of Horta in the Azores, who has been monitoring the firefight and salvage operation, was quoted as saying that they would not permit the hulk to enter their protected waters due to the environmental danger.
The ship’s manager, MOL Ship Management (Singapore) reported that two tugs, ALP Guard and Dian Kingdom, together with a large salvage craft with additional firefighting capability, V.B. Hispanic are escorting the vessel during the tow. In addition, the Portuguese Navy’s ocean patrol vessel NRP Setúbal also remains on site providing assistance, monitoring the stability of the ship, and looking for signs of pollution in the water. They report that the vessel’s stability remains satisfactory and that there have been no signs of pollution to date.
Car buyers who in some cases had been waiting months for their specially ordered vehicles continue to wait and speculate on what will be happening. Volkswagen Group said a statement that it believes many of the cars have been damaged to the point that they will no longer be deliverable. The company reports that it is working with buyers to come up with individual solutions while some dealers are telling buyers who had cars loaded on the Felicity Ace that they will be put “at the front of the queue,” after the production plan was revised for the luxury vehicles aboard which included Porches, Audis and Volkswagens. Buyers of the Bentleys and Lamborghinis aboard however are awaiting word on their cars which are individually built and could be the hardest to replace.