ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- Marine Atlantic says its ferry MV Highlanders is stuck in thick ice off Cape Breton after leaving North Sydney, N.S., for Newfoundland.

Spokesman Darrell Mercer says there are 209 passengers onboard along with 85 commercial trucks and 65 vehicles.

He says it's hoped the 200-metre-long vessel will soon be able to free itself or that a coast guard icebreaker can assist.

Mercer says ice conditions suddenly became worse as winds blew toward the coast.

The worst ice conditions in decades saw major disruptions in 2015, including some similar incidents.

Mercer says the ferry MV Blue Puttees is en route from Port aux Basques, N.L., and will also try to assist.