According to a Volkswagen spokeswoman, a ship carrying Porsches, Audis, and Bentleys from Germany to the United States caught fire on the shore of Portugal’s Azores islands in the Atlantic Ocean on Friday.
According to the Maritime Traffic website, the Panama-flagged ship was travelling from Emden, Germany, where Volkswagen has a manufacturing, to Davisville, United States.
The 22 crew members on board were evacuated when the fire broke out on Wednesday, with no one injured, according to a statement from Portugal’s navy.
According to Porsche and Bentley officials, some 1,100 Porsches and 189 Bentleys were on board. Another Volkswagen brand, Audi, confirmed that some of their vehicles were on board as well, but did not specify how many. It was unclear whether the vehicles had been harmed.
According to the German publication Handelsblatt, an internal communication from Volkswagen USA indicated that the ship was carrying 3,965 vehicles from the VW, Porsche, Audi, and Lamborghini brands.
Volkswagen declined to confirm the actual number of vehicles on board, saying it was awaiting more information.
Matt Farah, whose automotive review channel “The Smoking Tire” has over a million subscribers on YouTube, said on Twitter that he was contacted by a car dealer who said the Porsche he ordered was on the ship.
Farah wrote, “My car is presently drifting, maybe on fire, in the middle of the ocean.”
On Wednesday, the Portuguese maritime authorities posted a picture of plumes of smoke erupting from a ship on its website.
On Thursday night, the captain of Horta port on the Azorean island of Faial told Portuguese news agency Lusa that the fire was still burning but that it was under control.
The Azorean government did not respond to a request for comment right away.
Electrical failures, according to James Turner, a lawyer who specialises in cross-border business and shipping disputes, are a common source of such fires. Electric vehicles with lithium-ion batteries on board, he claimed, would require specialised firefighting apparatus to put out the flames.
He explained that vehicle carrier vessels are typically built like a multi-story parking garage, with sealed floors between each level, limiting cargo damage.