Portuguese Navy Launches Effort to Rescue Crew of Burning Ro/Ro

The patrol ship NRP Setubal is among the assets under way to the scene (Portuguese Navy file image)

Published Feb 16, 2022 5:45 PM by The Maritime Executive

[Brief] The Portuguese Navy's Ponta Delgada Maritime Search and Rescue Coordination Center (MRCC Delgada) is coordinating the rescue of the crew of the car carrier Felicity Ace, which reported a fire on board on Wednesday morning. 

While under way at a position about 90 nm to the southwest of Faial, an island in the center of the Azores, the Ace made a distress call to report a fire in a cargo hold. She is believed to have 22 crewmembers on board. 

The MRCC is coordinating a rescue involving five vessels, including the Portuguese Navy patrol ship NRP Setúbal and four good samaritan merchant ships. Assets of the Portuguese Air Force have also been activated.

At the time of the casualty, Felicity Ace was under way on a voyage from Emden, Germany to Rhode Island, according to AIS data. As of Wednesday afternoon, she has reversed her original course and is headed eastbound at a slow bell, making about three knots. 

In the past, insurers and class societies have voiced concern over the risk of fires on ro-ro vessels. Across all ro/pax and ro/ro classes, reefer truck fires and cargo shifts are among the leading culprits, according to a 2016 study by DNV. Car electrical system fires have also sparked large conflagrations in the past. The cause of the Felicity Ace fire is not currently known.