Air Force locates dinghy in hunt for missing Kiribati ferry

A fishing boat has picked up seven people in a dingy found in the search for a missing Kiribati ferry that had 50 on board.

A New Zealand Air Force Orion crew located the dinghy on Sunday, and took images as the fishing vessel diverted to the scene to collect the group.

"The group seem very relieved to have been found when the New Zealand Air Force Orion dropped supplies, including water and a radio, to them about 10am today," says RCCNZ Senior Search and Rescue Officer John Ashby.

Mr Ashby said the dinghy was understood to be one of two carried on the missing ferry, MV Butiraoi, and was located within a search area in the Pacific as large as New Zealand in size.

Local authorities were alerted to the missing 17m wooden catamaran after it failed to arrive in Betio on January 20, having left Nonouti island two days prior.

The RCCNZ received a request for aerial assistance on Friday.

Kiribati authorities say the ferry underwent repairs to its propeller shaft before leaving Nonouti.

NZN / Newshub.