A ship carrying Bentleys and Porsches is drifting in the mid-Atlantic after it caught fire, forcing the 22-strong crew to be evacuated.
The ship was travelling from Emden in Germany, where Volkswagen, which owns Bentley and Porsche, has a factory, to Davisville, Rhode Island in the US.
Volkswagen said a number of Audi vehicles were also on board, as well as cars which had already been paid for by customers. It was not clear whether the cars were damaged.
A spokesman for Volkswagen said: “We are aware of an incident involving a third-party cargo ship transporting Volkswagen Group vehicles across the Atlantic. We are in contact with the shipping company to get more information about the incident.”
No-one was hurt in the blaze, which was being brought under control by Portuguese authorities off the coast of the Azores islands. The crew were evacuated from Felicity Ace, a 60,000 tonne car carrier ship registered in Panama, on Wednesday, according to Portugal’s navy.
US-based car reviewer Matt Farah said on Twitter that a Porsche he had ordered was on the ship.
“I just got the call from my dealer,” he tweeted. “My car is now adrift, possibly on fire, in the middle of the ocean.”
The fire was still reportedly active as of Thursday night and the cause is not yet known. The ships are often divided into sections, which could limit the damage to the cargo.
The ship is operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, which said it “regrets the inconvenience and concern caused”.
It added: “MOL will make every effort to contain the damage and resolve the situation as the main priorities.”
The crew are safe in a hotel on the Azores and are in good health, it said, adding that it had appointed a salvage team which is due to arrive at the vessel on Friday.
Among the 3,965 cars affected were Volkswagen and Lamborghinis, according to the German newspaper Handelsblatt.
Container ship fires are rare, but can be catastrophic. In 2018, a fire on the Maersk Honam claimed the lives of five of its 27 crew after chemicals it was carrying caught fire and the ship’s carbon dioxide fire suppression system was unable to bring the blaze under control. It was salvaged and renamed the Maersk Halifax.
Container ship sizes have increased by 1,500pc since 1968, according to insurer Allianz, which has warned that ever-more sophisticated fire-fighting systems will be needed to keep up.
Volkswagen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.