A SEARCH search and rescue operation mounted off the North-East coast after a ferry passenger was reported missing has been called off with nothing found.

The alarm was raised after luggage was found in a cabin two-and-a-half hours after a DFDS ferry from Amsterdam docked at North Shields.

A spokesman for the Coastguard confirmed they are searching for the passenger with a helicopter and lifeboat crews from six RNLI stations.

A Northumbria Police spokesman said: "The passenger, a foreign national aged in his 60s, was travelling on board the ferry but did not depart the vessel upon arrival in North Shields and cannot be found on board.

"Enquiries are ongoing to trace the man, contact his next of kin and establish the circumstances around his disappearance."

Specialist officers from the Marine Unit, supported by staff from the Coastguard, carried out searches in the North Sea through the afternoon.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency confirmed it had called off the search at 7.30pm.