Cargo ship carrying luxury cars sinks after burning for weeks

A two-week transatlantic saga ended with a massive ship — and thousands of luxury cars aboard — sinking about 250 miles off a Portuguese archipelago after catching fire.

Despite efforts to salvage what remained of the Felicity Ace, the ship and its nearly 4,000-vehicle cargo went down near the Azores Islands.

During the towing process the ship ‘Felicity Ace’ lost stability and sank some 25 nautical miles outside of the limits of Portugal’s exclusive economic zone, in an area with a depth of about [9,842 feet].

The Felicity Ace is seen in this image supplied by the Portuguese navy.

The 650-foot-long vessel, operated by Japanese shipping line Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL), was traveling from Germany to Rhode Island when a fire started in the ship on Feb. 16.

Authorities tried to extinguish the flames, the ship’s 22-person crew was rescued, and no injuries were reported. What initially sparked the fire remains unknown.

Japanese MOL Ship Management said in a news release Friday that “the vessel has started being towed by the large salvage craft “Bear” to a safe area off Azores.”

The stranded ship had fueled concerns about the potential environmental damage to the Azores’ ecosystem, and it was unclear how its sinking may harm the area.

Set in the middle of the Atlantic, nearly 1,000 miles from another shore, the archipelago is home to coral reefs, tuna, sharks and dolphins. Its location along a number of seamounts makes it a key feeding ground for several migrating species such as blue and humpback whales, according to Oceano Azul Foundation, a Portugal-based environmental nonprofit organization.

European environmental groups and government agencies are monitoring the situation. The ship had been carrying about 2,200 tons of fuel and 2,200 tons of oil  along with other pollutants, such as metallic parts, plastics, electrical wires and paint.

Aboard the Felicity Ace was about 1,100 Porsches and 200 Bentleys. According to an analysis by the Russell Group, a risk management company, the estimatedvalue of goods on the ship was about $438 million, $400 million of which is the vehicles.