The blaze follows a similar incident on an Italian cargo ship carrying hundreds of vehicles earlier this month. Two firefighters from the US state of New Jersey were killed in that fire.
The Dutch coastguard evacuated 23 crew members from a car-carrying freighter off the coast of the Netherlands early on Wednesday after a fire on board left at least one person dead and several injured.
Emergency services had received a call shortly after midnight local time reporting a fire on the Fremantle Highway, a Panama-registered vessel carrying some 3,000 vehicles, some 30 kilometres north of the Dutch island of Ameland.
"The crew tried to extinguish the fire themselves but failed. Unfortunately, one person died and several others were injured," the Dutch Coastguard said on its website.
At least seven crew members jumped overboard and were recovered from the water, while the others were rescued by helicopter.
The Fremantle Highway, an 18,500-tonne cargo ship, had set sail from the German port of Bremerhaven for Port Said in Egypt, according to the marinetraffic.com website, which tracks maritime traffic worldwide.
The "fire is still raging on board", according to the coastguard, which added that the vessel was listing.
Rescue vessels are still on site to try to extinguish the flames and prevent the vessel from sinking, according to the Dutch national television service, NOS.
Specialised firefighters had been deployed from Rotterdam by helicopter but the fire developed so quickly that it was not possible to let them on board.
A tug, however, managed to attach a cable to the stricken vessel to prevent it from drifting and blocking an important shipping route to Germany, NOS reported.
"We are considering all scenarios," a coastguard spokesman told the national broadcaster.
The same spokesman said 25 electric cars were on board and one could have been the cause of the fire.
The injured sailors were taken to the northern towns of Lauwersoog and Eelde for treatment.
The island of Ameland, near which the Fremantle Highway is located, is one of the four Frisian islands in the Wadden Sea, north of the Netherlands.
The worst recent disaster off the busy Dutch coast dates back to December 2012, when the Bahamas-flagged cargo ship Baltic Ice, which was also carrying cars, collided with a container ship and sank. Eleven sailors were killed in the incident.