[WATCH] Philantropists set sail on first migrant assistance mission

Migrant Offshore Aid Station will spend 60 days at sea this summer, divided into various missions.

Philantropist Christopher Catrambone sets sail on MOAS's first migrant rescue mission

Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), a privately funded humanitarian project working to prevent more migrant deaths in the Mediterranean Sea, launched its first operation today.

Members of the local and foreign press were invited aboard the 40-metre ‘Phoenix’ to witness the launch of the mission as well as the launch of two drones that will be aiding in the operations

A professional crew of rescuers, seafarers, paramedics and humanitarians will be conducting the mission.

The vessel is equipped with two Schiebel remote piloted aircraft (CAMCOPTER® S-100) which will monitor the seas from the sky and provide real-time intelligence to MOAS and the Rescue Coordination Centres of Malta and Italy.

MOAS will spend 60 days at sea this summer, divided into various missions.

"We've had a number of struggles to get MOAS off the ground. But, now, just over a year after we conceived of this project, we are finally ready to get started," said Regina Catrambone, who founded MOAS together with her husband Christopher Catrambone.

"Much has changed since we came up with the idea last summer: the Mare Nostrum initiative started and has successfully saved tens of thousands of people. Unfortunately, its future is not guaranteed."

Another concern is the increasing number of people displaced by turmoil in Syria, Iraq and Gaza, leading to more migrant arrivals, including unaccompanied minors. Further complicating matters is the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

"Our focus is on the young child who finds himself or herself on a un-safe boat through no fault of their own. We believe they deserve to be saved. They might be sent back or face problems in Europe, but at least they did not die at sea. And may one day, they will grow up and dedicate some of their time, money and energy to helping others. This is the spirit of our mission. “

Catrambone thanked the press and the public for their response to MOAS. In particular, she thanked Houston-based POGO Bridges for their generous donation of medical supplies. MOAS will act as an offshore aid station. Its prime aim will not be to carry migrants to one country or another but to locate and monitor migrant boats and provide aid and assistance to vessels in distress. It will coordinate all of its activities according to its legal obligations at sea and in direct liaison with the Italian and Maltese authorities.

MOAS director Brigadier Martin Xuereb, who served as Malta's Chief of Defence until last year where he was responsible for the Armed Forces of Malta, said, "We will be an asset at the disposal of the authorities, just as any fishing boat or commercial vessel. The only difference is that we have the capabilities, experience and willingness to assist effectively."

The paramedics on board MOAS will assist vessels in distress by providing lifejackets, water, food and medical supplies using two Rigid-Hull inflatable Boats (Rhibs).

The Schiebel drones, which will he used to locate vessels in distress, are for the first time being deployed from onboard an NGO-owned ship.