MOAS rescues 227 migrants at sea

Migrant Offshore Aid Station coordinates rescue with US Navy and Italian military

A photo of the migrants rescued by MOAS, sent out on Twitter
A photo of the migrants rescued by MOAS, sent out on Twitter

Private migrant rescue mission MOAS has saved its first group of migrants, 130 men, 40 women and 57 children, many of whom are infants.

The Migrant Offshore Aid Station was officially launched on Monday from Malta by philanthropists and entrepreneurs Christopher and Regina Catrambone.

The migrants were on a wooden fishing boat when they ran into trouble in a stretch of sea south of Malta.

The MOAS vessel, the Phoenix, was directed to the incident spot by the Italian rescue coordination centre. “We were given command by RCC Rome after we spotted another rubber dinghy with 96 sub Saharan African males. We coordinated with US warship 56, and two merchant vessels. We assisted the sub Saharan Africans onboard the merchant ship,” MOAS said.

“The US Navy assisted MOAS by providing a RHIB to transport the migrants. No lives were lost and no injuries were incurred, besides a special needs child who needs insulin and several pregnant women.”

The Phoenix is will be taken north to rendezvous with an Italian warship. But it is not known whether the Italian boat will take the passengers, or ask the MOAS to disembark them in Lampedusa – 12 hours away from the rescue site.

MOAS picked up the migrants in distress outside the vast Maltese search and rescue zone.

On the day of its launch on Wednesday, MOAS assisted a Maltese fisherman and his five-year-old son, who were stranded some miles off the south coast of the island.

The Catrambones say they were inspired by an appeal launched by Pope Francis, and have spent €4 million of their own money to set up the venture.

The aim of its operation is not to ferry rescued migrants but for the vessel to act as a station out at sea that will help identify vessels at risk and give first assistance in coordination with the military forces in Malta and Italy.

MOAS’s centre of operations is based in Malta, and former AFM commander Martin Xuereb is the director and leader of the MOAS, which is made up of security professionals, medical staff and experienced maritime operators.

Between August and October, the MOAS team will sail its 40-metre expedition vessel Phoenix I to major migrant shipping lanes and drop anchor. From this fixed point the crew will monitor the area using drones and human lookouts to spot migrant vessels in distress.

Another former army man joining MOAS was Marco Cauchi, serving as operations director and first officer. During his 20-year career with the Armed Forces of Malta he participated in search and rescue missions as Search Mission Coordinator and has rescued hundreds of boats. He served as Commanding Officer of a fleet of AFM patrol vessels.