A major search is under way after two people were reported missing from Carnival Spirit off the coast of Australia.

After the pair – a 26-year-old woman and a 30-year-old man who were travelling with family and friends – were unaccounted for during the debarkation process at the Sydney Overseas Passenger Terminal, the authorities were contacted and searches began.

The New South Wales (NSW) police said an air and marine search and rescue operation was under way off the coast of Forster – more than 130 miles north of Sydney.

Officers from the Marine Area Command reviewed CCTV footage and determined the pair had gone overboard about 8.50pm local time on Wednesday.

A spokesman for NSW police said: “Police and Australian Search and Rescue have determined a search area approximately 60Nm east of Forster and have deployed aircraft and marine vessels.

“Officers are investigating the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the pair and, in these early stages, are focused on the search efforts.”

A spokesman for Carnival Cruise Lines said: “We have naturally been concerned since we became aware that two passengers were missing from Carnival Spirit and our thoughts are clearly with their families at this difficult time.

“We are working closely with New South Wales Police and assisting them in their inquiries.

“At approximately 9.15am today during the debarkation process for Carnival Spirit at the conclusion of a 10-night cruise in Sydney, it became apparent that two guests, a 26-year-old woman and a 30-year-old man, were unaccounted for.

“The ship immediately initiated standard missing person procedures including a full search of the vessel as per protocol. The guests in question were travelling with family and friends and initial reports indicate that the couple were last seen onboard the vessel last night.”