By Catarina Demony and Victoria Waldersee
LISBON (Reuters) -Heavy tug boats on Tuesday sprayed water on a ship off the coast of Portugal’s Azore Islands which went on fire nearly a week ago carrying thousands of Porsches and Bentleys, an incident insurance experts said could result in $155 million in losses.
The losses would likely fall on continental European insurance markets, specialist publication Insurance Insider reported, citing anonymous sources, with Volkswagen’s in-house insurance covering some of the cost.
Data and analytics company Russell Group estimated the loss at around $155 million, which Insurance Insider said chimed with estimates by sources within the London market of around $140 million.
Lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles on board made the fire very difficult to extinguish, the captain of the nearest port said, raising questions about the safety of transporting them when carmakers worldwide are stepping up production.
The 22 crew members on board the ship, called the Felicity Ace, were evacuated the same day the fire broke out.
Ship manager Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd (MOL) said in a statement the vessel was still on fire but stable, and that no oil leak had been reported so far.
Two large tug boats equipped with firefighting gear arrived from Gibraltar on Monday, and were working with another patrol boat to spray water at the Felicity Ace and cool it down, MOL said.
“When conditions are safe the salvage team will board the Felicity Ace for an initial assessment,” MOL added.
MOL did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the cause of the fire.
Two other tug boats with more firefighting equipment were scheduled to arrive Feb. 23 and Feb. 26.
João Mendes Cabeças, the captain of the nearest port on the Azorean island of Faial, said on Sunday the fire had lost its intensity, probably because there was little left to burn.
(Reporting by Catarina Demony in Lisbon and Victoria Waldersee in Berlin; Editing by Jane Merriman and Keith Weir)