The search for a missing ferry in Kiribati - which had an estimated 50 people onboard - will resume on Sunday.

Today the Rescue Coordination Centre of New Zealand provided a detailed search area for the P3 Orion crew and local personnel.

RCCNZ and the New Zealand Airforce is assisting the Rescue Coordination Centre in Nadi, Fiji, in searching for an inter-island ferry, MV Butiraoi, overdue to Betio, Tarawa.

The Orion left early this morning and carried out a radar search of 145,000 square kilometres before standing down. It will resume again at daylight.

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RCCNZ Senior Search and Rescue Officer John Ashby saod the total potential search area is about the size of New Zealand.

"The Orion crew has covered around a quarter of the western area of the search zone. Meanwhile Kiribati authorities have arranged for a local vessel, the MV Tekokona, to conduct surface searching, and an Air Kiribati aircraft is expected to join the search on Sunday local time.

"This ferry has been overdue for a week, and the RCCNZ received a request for aerial assistance yesterday. Rescue services have had no communication from the crew.

"We are relying on our drift predictions to narrow down the search area as much as possible to increase the chances of finding their location as soon as we can," Ashby said.

"Maritime Radio here in New Zealand and in Tarawa is broadcasting for any vessels in the area to be on the look-out. Seas are moderate to rough, and the weather partly cloudy with some rain."