THE AIR and sea search for a 42 year old man who went overboard from the NorthLink ferry Hrossey en route from Kirkwall to Lerwick has been called off.
Shetland coastguard said that with darkness falling and weather conditions deteriorating there was little chance of finding the man, whose identity has yet to be announced.
A spokesman added that the chances of the man being found alive had long passed, 12 hours after the search was launched.
The missing man was last seen at 3.30am and when the ferry captain was alerted to his disappearance half an hour later he immediately turned the ship around and head back to an area about 10 miles east of the Orkney isle of Sanday.
An hour later the coastguard search was activated with the Sumburgh-based Rescue 102 helicopter being scrambled and lifeboats from Kirkwall, Stromness and Lerwick being launched.
They received support from Banff registered fishing boat Carina, the Scottish government’s fisheries protection vessel Jura, the oil support vessel Havila Aurora and the Norwegian tug Siem Topaz.
The oil industry’s Jigsaw helicopter also assisted and the fisheries protection aircraft Watchdog 64 also flew over the scene.
The Hrossey carrying 172 passengers including 21 children abandoned the search at 9am to continue on to Lerwick, where it arrived at lunchtime.
Passengers were briefly interviewed by local police officers when they disembarked.
As darkness fell south easterly winds were gusting up to 30 knots in the area, making it almost impossible to search.
A coastguard spokesman said: “We have gone well past the point of survival in the water and there are no plans to continue the search tomorrow.”
This is the third person to have gone overboard from a Serco NorthLink ferry in the past 14 months.
Last month 22 year old Craig Townsley from Shetland disappeared while on board the Hjaltland travelling from Lerwick to Aberdeen.
The search was called off after 24 hours and his body has never been found.
In August last year 64 year old Antonio Bernabe Ramirez, from Spain, died after falling overboard the Hjaltland 30 miles north of Fraserburgh.
He was airlifted to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary where he was pronounced dead.
A NorthLink spokesman said the company was liaising with the relevant authorities, including the police.