A major rescue effort is continuing for a passenger who was lost overboard from the NorthLink ferry Hjaltland early on Monday morning.
Aberdeen Coastguard was alerted at 6.23am by ferry staff reporting that a 22-year-old man had gone missing. He was last seen onboard shortly after 4am.
Because of that time gap, a coastguard spokesman said the search encompassed an “extensive” area off the Scottish north-east coast, stretching from Rattray Head right down towards Aberdeen.
Lifeboats from Aberdeen, Peterhead and Fraserburgh were immediately called into action, joined by the RAF Lossiemouth helicopter.
The Hjaltland was just north of Aberdeen when the person was reported missing. The ferry retraced her route back towards Peterhead in an effort to locate the missing passenger, before later making her way to Aberdeen.
Speaking just after lunchtime, an Aberdeen Coastguard spokesman said the city port’s lifeboat had been stood down, but the other two – along with the helicopters – were still searching.
“Grampian police are involved in investigation at the harbour here,” he said, “and we’re still just searching. At the moment we’re saturating the area, making sure every stone’s being overturned. We’ll continue during daylight hours, then reassess.”
Earlier, the coastguard had said it was a “very big search area”, though weather on the scene was good with light winds and visibility clear.
A Serco NorthLink spokeswoman confirmed the ferry had initially turned back to assist the coastguard search. There were 166 people on board the Hjaltland, which had been due to arrive in Aberdeen at 7am. The passenger eventually arrived at 11.45am.
One passenger told this newspaper that everyone on board had been told they would not be allowed to disembark until police officers had spoken to passengers and carried out an initial investigation.
The Serco NorthLink spokeswoman said: “The passenger was last seen at 4am and a search … is concentrating on an area off Peterhead. No further details are available but the company’s prime concern is for the safety of the missing passenger and all those on board the vessel.”
* The Shetland Times is interested in speaking to anyone who was on board the Hjaltland from Lerwick to Aberdeen last night. You can contact us by emailing email@example.com or phoning (01595) 746716.