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The search and rescue operation has been called off for a Carnival Spirit staff member who fell overboard.

A spokesperson for the New Caledonian search and rescue authority told Fairfax Media they had allowed the ship to continue on its course.

The spokesperson cited poor weather conditions and the exceptionally large search area made the mission difficult

“The chances of finding the crew member who went overboard is literally nil,” said the spokesperson.

The New Caledonian authorities sent a navy plane to search the area. The plane spent four hours patrolling the search area which is at least 200 nautical miles long.

Carnival Spirit is now steaming towards Fiji.

The Indian man who was working on the ship which left Sydney last Thursday, was reported missing on Tuesday morning after he failed to report to the galley for his shift.

Carnival Cruise Lines Australia spokesperson David Jones said an extensive on-board search had failed to locate a staff member.

The Spirit was on a voyage out to Vanuatu, and left Sydney on 3 July.

Captain Giuseppe Gazzano apologised for the interrupted voyage and said a ‘care team’ from the cruise line will provide support to the missing man’s family.

A passenger who asked not to be named told Fairfax Media on Tuesday morning at 9:30am that an announcement was made on board the ship about the missing crew member.

But the passenger said he could have been missing since the night before.

“Several messages later, the captain announced we were going to turn the boat around to search for him,” she said.

The source also said several announcements had been made in connection with a search for a passenger named Ryan Dicks. It was later established the missing passenger was located.

Carnival Spirit is the same ship from when Paul Rossington, 30 and his girlfriend Kristen Schroder, 27, fell to their deaths last May.