A ferry company have been left ‘saddened’ by the news that the search for a man who ‘jumped overboard’ has been called off.
Emergency services had launched a major rescue operation after a man ‘jumped’ from a Wightlink service just outside Portsmouth Harbour this morning.
The RNLI have since called off the search mission and the man is now being designated as a missing person.
A spokeswoman for Wightlink said: ‘Wightlink staff have been saddened to learn the search for a man who jumped from the Portsmouth to Fishbourne car ferry St Cecilia this morning as it left Portsmouth Harbour has been suspended, pending further information.
‘Passengers on board the 10:30 sailing to Fishbourne, who witnessed the incident, alerted the crew.
‘The Captain of St Cecilia immediately launched the ship's rescue boat. Several other vessels joined the search.
‘This is now a missing person inquiry, led by Hampshire Police. All further inquiries should be addressed to the Constabulary.’
Two RNLI lifeboats from Portsmouth joined forces with two Ministry of Defence police vessels and the Coastguard helicopter from Lee-on-the-Solent to search Portsmouth Harbour.
Both Hillhead and Portsmouth coastguard rescue teams were also involved.
At one point in the operation, a desperate plea was sent out by the coastguard, which begged for more vessels in the area to join the hunt, with a number of craft heeding the plea.
However, a spokesman from Portsmouth RNLI said the city’s volunteer rescue crews had been left ‘exhausted’ following the operation and that the difficult decision to call a halt had to be taken.
Aaron Gent, of Portsmouth RNLI, said: ‘After three hours, the chances of having a successful result are very slim.
‘The lifeboats were stood down about 20 minutes ago. They were out there for three hours searching intensively in the harbour entrance, the channels and in the side creeks.’
Vincent Winstanley was walking along the beach when he noticed a helicopter in the skies.
The 68-year-old from Southsea said: ‘I saw the helicopter and then all these boats and the strangest thing of all was the ferry that had just stopped in the middle of the Solent.
‘There was lots of commotion and boats all clearly looking for something.’