The IMRF was recently made aware of the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) a new organisation made up of a group of humanitarians, security professionals, medical staff and experienced maritime operators who have combined resources to help prevent tragedies at sea in the Mediterranean.
Based in Malta, MOAS was founded by Christopher and Regina Catrambone who were inspired by Pope Francis's call for entrepreneurs to help those in need after an idyllic holiday scene was interrupted by the sight of a winter jacket floating in the water.
The couple, who established Tangiers, a leading business specialising in insurance, emergency assistance and intelligence in 2006, realised that the jacket probably belonged to one of the thousands of migrants who try to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.
Says Regina: "We looked at each other and we said: 'Let's do something'. From this moment came the idea of buying a boat and doing something in the Mediterranean where people are dying every day."
More than 1,889 people have died in the waters since the start of this year and 1600 of them since the beginning of June, according to the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR.
MOAS has been set up to act as an aid station to support vessels in need of assistance, coordinating its efforts with other search and rescue authorities around the Mediterranean.
The intention is to mitigate against loss of life at sea, not act as a migrant ferry or rescue migrants exclusively. Resources will be used to assist Rescue Coordination Centres, locate and treat those who are suffering and save lives where required.
To enable this, MOAS has a 40 metre (130 ft) expedition vessel called Phoenix which is deployed in major migrant shipping lanes.
The crew monitor the area using Remote Piloted Aircraft to locate migrant vessels in distress using sonar, thermal and night imaging.
The minute a boat in distress is located, the respective Rescue Coordination Centre will be informed.
"This is an interesting initiative set up to address the maritime SAR challenge presented by the movement of migrants in the Mediterranean, what is both a major humanitarian issue built around some major political challenges," says Bruce Reid, Chief Executive of the IMRF.
"Vessels of opportunity are in many cases the first on-scene in maritime SAR emergencies so the concept of having a dedicated resource such as MOAS fulfilling this role, working in collaboration with the authorities could be part of the solution. There will difficulties with what MOAS is working to achieve, but if it was easy someone would have already done it. In many countries we see organisations set up, privately in many cases, working with volunteers because people have identified need and are willing to do something about it. Providing SAR coordinators more options to call on when people are in distress on the water can only be good."
In its first two weeks, MOAS has already assisted in the rescue of almost 2,000 migrants in seven separate operations coordinated with the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre of Rome and Italy's Mare Nostrum mission.
Most of the migrants rescued were Syrians, Palestinians and Eritreans travelling on large unseaworthy wooden boats. More than 100 children have been hosted, sheltered and treated by paramedics aboard MOAS's vessel Phoenix, including a two-day old infant.
More than 20,000 men, women and children are estimated to have lost their lives in the past 20 years whilst trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea in search of a better life. Most of them are escaping violence, prosecution and hardship from places as far off as Eritrea, Somalia and, more recently, Syria.
MOAS has a Board of Advisors made up of distinguished people from various sections of society. Its Director is Martin Xuereb. A Maltese native, Martin trained in the UK and Italy and in a 26 year military career oversaw many search and rescue missions as Chief of Defence of the Armed Forces of Malta.