CONCERNS over the flammability of electric vehicles have flared again after revelations Mitsui OSK Lines and insurer Allianz are suing Volkswagen AG over the 2022 loss of PCTC Felicity Ace.

The lawsuits were apparently lodged last year but were revealed last week by newsagency Bloomberg, and confirmed by the parties involved.

The 2006-built, 5232 CEU Felicity Ace was en route from Emden, Germany to East Coast North America ports in mid-February 2022 with close to 4,000, mostly upmarket vehicles, on board – including Lamborghinis, Bentleys, Audis, VWs and Porsches. Fire broke out when the ship was off the Azores and spread quickly through vehicle decks, forcing the crew of 22 to abandon ship.

Despite fire-fighting and salvage efforts the ship sank after two weeks adrift, with total cargo loss estimated at over US$438 million.

In their lawsuits the plaintiffs claim the fire originated in a lithium-ion battery fitted to a Porsche and spread quickly due to the prevalence of EVs on board and the uncontrollable nature of such blazes. Allianz, which is reported to have regularly warned about the dangers of EVs, alleges VW “failed to inform them of the danger and necessary precautions needed to transport such vehicles”, according to Bloomberg.

Following this and other EV fires on PCTCs and RoRos owned/operated by the likes of K Line and Grimaldi some PCTC operators have imposed restrictions upon or refused to carry the vehicles.

Late last year AMSA issued safety guidelines for the carriage of battery electric vehicles on domestic and international vessels.