A 55-year-old man who was on board the Union Moon cargo vessel was arrested after it collided with the Stena Feronia on Wednesday evening.
An inquiry has been launched into the incident which happened close to the Fairway buoy on the Co Down coast, at around 7.45pm.
There were 51 passengers and 47 crew members on board the ferry.
No injuries have been reported at this stage.
The ferry had left the Merseyside’s Birkenhead on a morning sailing and was on the final stretch to Belfast when the collision took place.
The cargo boat was left badly damaged.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency will now carry out an investigation.
Diane Poole from Stena Line told UTV all passengers were discharged safely.
She said: “The staff looked after the customers extremely well onboard.
“There was nothing else that the staff could have done for them and I hope they find comfort in that.”
Police are assisting with inquiries into the crash.
Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs said: “Many people will rightly be asking just how two modern vessels with state of the art navigation equipment can collide in a major shipping lane.
“This question must be answered in order to maintain public confidence and to ensure that the excellent safety record is maintained.”
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