Very busy period for the Armed Forces of Malta
Friday 13 May 2011 by - Direzione
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The past 18 hours were very busy for the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) after no less than four separate sighting reports of four different boats, all carrying third country nationals were received by the AFM Operations Centre.
All boats reportedly departed from Libya and were heading in a northerly direction in an attempt to cross the Mediterranean sea. The total number of third country nationals on board these boats is estimated to be around five hundred.
Two sightings were initially located inside the Libyan search and rescue region and another two sightings were initially located inside the Malta Search and Rescue Region.
The AFM Operations Centre was informed of these sightings by MRCC ROME and by NATO.
An extensive operation, which began yesterday evening and which continued throughout the night is currently underway involving Armed Forces of Malta aircraft and patrol boats, NATO maritime and air assets as well as Italian surface and air assets.
One of the migrant boat reports was received yesterday evening at 1820 hrs from RCC Rome. They reported a boat with 220 persons on board located 126 nm from Malta and 85 nm from Lampedusa, that is 13 nm outside the Malta’s SAR region. The information passed on to the AFM Operations Centre by RCC ROME included the telephone number of a satellite phone on board the vessel. Minutes later, similar information, including an identical satellite phone number was supplied to the AFM from a local newsroom.
The AFM only managed to make contact once with this boat as other numerous attempts made by the AFM Operations Centre to establish follow on contact with the migrant boat was to no avail. This could have been the result of extensive non-essential use of the limited battery life of the satellite phone.
The AFM immediately despatched one of its patrol craft to proceed to the area. A NATO warship, which was closer to the migrant boat, rendered assistance and the boat is currently under escort by an Italian patrol vessel in the vicinity of Lampedusa.
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