A mammoth cargo ship believed to be carrying thousands of vehicles including 1,100 Porsches was on fire and drifting off the coast of the Azores on Thursday after its 22 crew members were rescued from the vessel.
The fire broke out on Wednesday morning in the cargo hold of the ship, called the Felicity Ace, which had departed from Emden, Germany, on Feb. 10 and was scheduled to arrive in the port of Davisville, R.I., on Wednesday, according to a ship tracking website.
The ship was about 200 miles from Terceira Island in the Azores, the Portuguese island territory, when Portuguese forces moved in on Wednesday to evacuate the crew.
No rescuers or crew members were injured in the “highly skilled and physically demanding” operation, which included a helicopter that whisked the crew members to the nearby Portuguese island of Faial, according to the authorities.
It was unclear how much of the 650-foot, 60,000-ton cargo ship’s inventory was lost in the fire and how the authorities would tend to the stricken ship.
The Drive, an automotive website, reported that the Volkswagen Group estimated nearly 4,000 vehicles were on board, including 189 Bentleys. Emails sent to the Volkswagen Group were not immediately answered.
On Friday, Boskalis, a Dutch marine services company, said that a team of 16 experts from a subsidiary, SMIT Salvage, had been mobilized and that large equipment was en route from Spain and the Netherlands to help put out the fire on the ship.
Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, which operated the Felicity Ace, said it had established an incident response team to coordinate the emergency and would “make every effort to contain the damage and resolve the situation.”
Photos released on Friday by the Portuguese navy showed smoke billowing from the ship and at least one firefighting boat dousing the vessel with water.
The fire comes as showrooms across the country are trying to meet consumer demand amid supply-chain problems caused partly by the pandemic. Low interest rates, higher savings rates and government stimulus payments have increased demand, while automakers have struggled to weather a shortage of computer chips.
Matt Farah, a car enthusiast and editor of The Smoking Tire, had been waiting for his 2022 frozen-berry metallic Boxster Spyder, with a retail price of about $123,000 and modified to his precise specifications, since August. “The best sports car of all time, hands down,” he wrote.
He received disappointing news on Wednesday, he said: “I just got a call from my dealer. My car is now adrift, possibly on fire, in the middle of the ocean.”
In a statement on Thursday, Mr. Farah said that a Porsche representative confirmed that his car was on the boat and apologized for the inconvenience.
“That was yesterday, and I have not heard any updates since,” he said. “I’m glad no one was hurt in the fire and everyone is safe, which is the most important thing. I’m sure that whatever happens going forward, Porsche will do right by their customers.”
In a statement on Thursday evening, a spokeswoman for Porsche Cars North America said that 1,100 of the company’s cars were on board but that the fate of the vehicles was unknown. She encouraged customers worried about their car to contact their dealer.
“Our immediate thoughts are of relief that the 22 crew members of the merchant ship Felicity Ace are safe and well,” the statement said.
Michael Levenson contributed reporting.