A search has begun for a crew member after he fell overboard from a bulk carrier vessel 425km north of Cape Reinga.
Neville Blakemore from the Rescue Co-ordination Centre says the man appears to have fallen from the TPC Napier about 4.30pm on Thursday.
Mr Blakemore says the ship was heading towards the Port of Tauranga from Malaysia at the time of the incident.
He says it appears the man had changed into overalls and heavy work boots as he had been instructed to do some painting, and the chances of him wearing a life jacket were "very slim".
Mr Blakemore says the ship has reached the area where the man is believed to have fallen overboard, but deteriorating weather conditions and darkness are hampering the search late on Thursday.
The Rescue Co-ordination Centre says a decision will be made at first light on Friday whether to send a plane to help with the search.