A 131-foot fishing trawler manned by a wealthy American and his family left the shores of Malta on Wednesday to set off into the Mediterranean sea for a six month expedition, CNN reports.
Its mission? Rescue migrants making the perilous journey from Africa to Europe.
“I love the adventure and challenge of tackling tough problems to help people make it through impossible situations,” Chris Catrambone, a self-styled entrepreneur, humanitarian, and adventurer, writes on his blog.
Catrambone is the captain of a ship named the Phoenix, as well as the founder of Tangiers, a global insurance and emergency assistance business.
Today the Phoenix is making its second major rescue voyage. With a crew of 20 including two doctors and a nurse, the vessel is well equipped to help the migrants they are likely to find fleeing Africa across the Mediterranean. The boat also has hundreds of gallons of water, hundreds of life jackets, a cook, and two drones equipped with camcorders that will be used to find distressed migrants, Catrambones told CNN.
Catrambone added that the expidtion will cost his family roughly $US445,000 per month.
So how did this American businessman end up saving migrants off the coast of Africa?
According to CNN, it all started last summer when Catrambone and his Italian wife Regina were vacationing on a luxury yacht in the Mediterranean and spotted a life jacket, from a migrant who had probably died, in the water.
“Here we were in this nice boat, when the migrants, people like us, are attempting to cross because there’s a war in their country,” Regina told CNN. “These people are dying at Europe’s door. We have an ethical and moral obligation to do something.”
With this memory in mind, as well as the 2013 migrant tragedy in Lampedusa, the Catrambone’s bought the 431 ton Phoenix and formed the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), which spent last August through October pulling some 3,000 migrants out of the Mediterranean, according to VICE News.
Citizen efforts like that of the Catrambone’s couldn’t come at a better time, as Europe is expecting the busiest migrant season in history this summer. So far, 1600 people have died making the journey from Africa to Europe, compared to 96 deaths this time last year, CNN reports.
The EU border agency Frontex has also proven to be ineffective in slowing the death rate of those crossing the Mediterranean.
Last year, MOAS saved nearly 3,000 lives in 60 days,” Chris Catrambone wrote on his blog. “Equipped with experience, the latest technology and an adherence to the highest safety standards, we will save more lives this year than ever.”