Authorities spent the day searching for two men who went missing after a barge sank off the east side of Vancouver Island early Saturday morning.

The Canadian Forces' Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Victoria said it received the Mayday call about 2:30 a.m. PT.

Three men were on the vessel, described as a 67-foot steel landing craft, about five kilometres north of Campbell River, and it was taking on water.

The barge was less than a kilometre due north of the docks at the old mill when it sank in 72-metres of water, police said.

One of the men was rescued and pulled aboard an inflatable boat by crew members of an Alaskan ferry that answered the call for help.

Campbell River RCMP officers lit up the shoreline as best they could to help guide the other two men in the event they were trying to swim to shore.

A Cormorant helicopter was dispatched from CFB Comox to aid the RCMP boat PV Higgit and three Canadian coast guard vessels in the search.

"A comprehensive search by sea, air and land, with the assistance of Campbell River Ground Search and Rescue has failed to turn up any signs of the two missing men," RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. M.K. Poppy Hallam said Saturday afternoon.

"Transport Canada has been advised and the Campbell River RCMP has control of the investigation as a missing persons case," she said.