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Porsche blamed for devastating cargo ship EV fire as lawsuits filed against Volkswagen Group

In 2022, a devastating fire erupted aboard a cargo ship laden with luxury cars, resulting in damages estimated at a staggering $236 million. Now, a lawsuit has emerged alleging that a Porsche electric vehicle (EV) was the catalyst for the blaze.

German automotive giant Volkswagen Group finds itself entangled in two separate legal battles stemming from the conflagration that engulfed the Felicity Ace, a roll-on roll-off vessel. The incident unfolded in February 2022 while the ship traversed the waters near the Azores, an Atlantic archipelago belonging to Portugal.

Loaded with 3,965 high-end vehicles en route from Germany to the United States, the Felicity Ace ultimately capsized and sank following the inferno. Although all 22 crew members escaped unscathed, the ship was left adrift in the ocean.

Among the luxury brands consigned to the ill-fated voyage were Porsche, Audi, Lamborghini, Bentley, Bugatti, and Volkswagen, all under the Volkswagen Group umbrella. While the cause of the fire initially remained uncertain, recent developments have spotlighted Porsche’s lithium-ion battery as the alleged source, according to Bloomberg.

A lawsuit, involving plaintiffs such as the ship’s operator Mitsui OSK Lines Ltd. and insurer Allianz SE, has been filed in Stuttgart, the capital of Baden-Württemberg, where Volkswagen’s Porsche division is headquartered. Another legal action has been initiated in Braunschweig, a city in central Germany.

The plaintiffs contend that Volkswagen Group failed to adequately warn them about the potential risks of EV fires and neglected to provide sufficient guidance on preparing the vehicles for transport. These cases, filed last year, are yet to proceed to trial as procedural matters are addressed.

This incident echoes a similar maritime catastrophe involving a Panama-registered cargo vessel named the Fremantle Highway, which caught fire off the coast of the Netherlands with approximately 4,000 vehicles onboard. While one crew member tragically lost his life, the remainder, mostly Indian nationals, escaped harm. The ship’s owners, Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., promptly attributed the blaze to electric cars.

The International Maritime Organization has been actively developing new safety protocols for ships carrying electric vehicles, responding to a growing number of ship fires attributed to these vehicles. The Dutch shipping organization KVNR has also advocated for heightened regulations governing the transportation of EVs.

EV fires, while rare, pose unique challenges due to their heightened intensity and potential for spontaneous reignition. These fires release toxic gases and can be challenging to extinguish, as reported by Drive.com.au. Nonetheless, EV fires remain significantly less common than those involving petrol and diesel vehicles

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