A Taiwanese yacht builder is blaming a competitor, a German shipowner and one of its general cargoships for a fire that saw more than $20m in yachts go up in flames on a trans-Pacific voyage last year.

Alexander Marine and Alexander Marine USA sued in the US federal court for the Southern District of Florida seeking damages from a litany of parties involved in stowing and shipping five yachts on top of cargo holds aboard the 12,657-dwt BBC Virginia (built 2010).

Included are Briese Schiffahrt and the BBC Virginia itself.

“Based on the damaged condition of the affected yachts, all surveyors agreed that the fire started [in] either hatch number 1 — or the vessel stowed above it, noting that said vessel was a pile of ashes on inspection,” Alexander Marine's complaint, filed on 12 December, said.

The vessel-turned-ash-pile was allegedly owned by related companies Sempre Italia and Silent Yachts of North America. Silent Yachts is a Florida company building hybrid and electric yachts that compares itself to electric automaker Tesla. Both Silent Yachts and Sempre Italia are defendants in the lawsuit.

Alexander Marine alleges the ship was defective and unfit for the November 2021 shipment from Taiwan to Florida given its “unproven and untested radical solar powering system”.

According to the company, once the fire broke out, it quickly spread to the three Alexander Marine ships stowed above adjacent hatches.

Two of the Alexander Marine vessels were deemed total losses. The third suffered severe damage.

The ship was diverted to China for surveying.

Briese Schiffahrt and the BBC Virginia are accused of being unseaworthy, while a fourth defendant, Belgium- and Florida-based Cross Chartering allegedly violated the contract of carriage by failing to disclose the Silent Yachts ship and putting the three Alexander Marine ships on an unworthy vessel.

The lawsuit does not specify damages but said its three ships were worth $21m.

It did not say whether or not the fifth vessel suffered any damage or who owned it.

Neither Silent Yachts nor Briese Shiffahrt responded to a request for comment. An email sent to Cross Chartering was returned as undeliverable.