A passenger suspected of starting a fire on board a ferry in the North Sea sparking an emergency evacuation has been detained by ship staff, Humberside Police have said.
Crew members and passengers had to be winched off a North Sea ferry after they breathed in smoke when the fire broke out 30 miles from land last night.
Ferry operator DFDS Seaways said six people in total were taken to hospital by helicopter, however the coastguard earlier said it was seven.
Inspector Andrew Dixon said: "At approximately 11pm the Maritime and Coastguard agency informed Humberside Police that a passenger ferry en route from Newcastle to Holland had suffered an incident whereby a passenger is believed to have set fire to a cabin.
"It is unknown if the fire was started deliberately or accidentally.
"As a result of this incident the person suspected of causing the fire, or the person from the cabin where the fire occurred, be it deliberate or accidental, has been detained by ship staff and the ship was returning to its dock in Newcastle."
The fire broke out in a passenger cabin around 10.45pm and was extinguished within 11pm.
RAF helicopters from Leconfield near Hull and Boulmer, Northumberland were scrambled to the vessel along with RNLI lifeboats from Bridlington and Filey.
The ship is now on its way back to Newcastle.
A spokeswoman for DFDS Seaways said 946 passengers and 127 crew members were on board the DFDS Seaways cruise ferry King Seaways, which was en route from Newcastle to Amsterdam.
" Fifteen passengers and eight crew members are reported to have suffered from smoke-related injuries," she said.
"They have been checked by a doctor on-board, and two passengers and four crew members have been taken ashore by helicopter for further medical assistance at a local hospital in the UK.
"The ship is now returning to Newcastle with an expected arrival of around 0430.
"We will ensure that passengers and crew affected by the incident will be offered psychological assistance as well as other assistance that might be needed."
The ferry's journey is being closely monitored by Humber Coastguard, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has said.
"All helicopters and life boats involved have been stood down, however Humber Coastguard is in constant contact with the ferry and an RAF helicopter is on stand-by should it need further assistance," spokeswoman Jo Rawlings said.
She added that it would be normal procedure for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to survey the ferry for lasting damage.
According to the DFDS Seaways website, the 26-year-old vessel has room for over 1,500 passengers and 600 cars. It was renovated in 2006.
It offers entertainment including restaurants, bars, a nightclub and a casino.