The recent sinking of the Felicity Ace in February 2022, aboard which were thousands of luxury cars, cost Japanese carrier Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) around USD 500 million in losses. Since then, the automotive transport companies are either making policy changes or face-on banning transportation of electric vehicles (EVs) citing the hazards they tag along.
MOL lost the Felicity Ace to a fire incident during its journey through the Atlantic Ocean, and while the exact cause of the fire may have sunk with the ship, it is suspected that the EVs on board added to the blazes that devoured Felicity Ace. MOL has now made it public that, for the time being, no more used EVs will be transported on the shipping line’s vessels. Around 4,000 cars were lost, with the manifest including 846 Audi cars, 580 Porsche cars, 523 Volkswagen cars (some of which were non-US models intended for Mexico and Central/South American markets, likely alongside the 3 Seat Atecas lost), 190 Bentley cars and one enthusiast’s Honda Prelude.
However, the MOL spokesperson has denied that the policy change was made due to the Felicity Ace incident. According to him, the shipping line has been receiving an increased number of orders to transport EVs in the recent times and the used EVs pose serious fire risks while being transported. He also said that while conventional cars can be and are checked for fuel leakage and other hazards before being loaded on the vessel, the same cannot be done with the EVs, which is the reason they took this decision. The new policy is only for purely electric vehicles and excludes hybrid vehicles.
Other shipping carriers operating RoRos, including Toyofuji Shiping NZ and Armacup Maritime Services, denied considering any policy changes with respect to the transportation of EVs.
It’s business as usual. Our policy is to not accept accident-damaged EVs, but we will be keeping a close eye on developments relating to used EVs and may need to adjust our policy in the future as and when more information comes available.”~ Hans Corporaal, Chief Operating Officer of Armacup
It is debatable if the new MOL policy is due to the risk of runaway combustion during a fire started externally, rather than the risk of the EVs themselves igniting. In the latter case, solely banning used EVs makes very little sense as new ones present just as much fire risk in this regard. However, it may be that MOL doesn’t wish to jeopardize relationships with major automakers by banning shipment of their latest products. Thus, banning a subset of EVs helps reduce risks of a runaway fire to some degree.