It’s not uncommon for wealthy couples to sail the Mediterranean in a yacht, but Chris and Regina Catrambone are cruising in a 130-foot ship outfitted especially to rescue migrants at sea.

Moved last summer by the loss of life among thousands of people fleeing North Africa to find a better life in Europe, the Catrambones decided to buy a search-and-rescue ship. The American husband and his Italian wife founded the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) and set out in their vessel – The Phoenix — along with a 20-person crew, and their daughter Maria Luisa, to save lives.

Photos via MOAS

Two infrared camera-equipped drones (pictured at right) allow the crew to scan a nearly 70 mile radius around the ship looking for overcrowded migrant boats or people in distress.

Crew members use large rigid inflatable boats to take life jackets to migrants and bring them aboard their ship.

The Phoenix rescued more than 270 people on its first run last fall. In their first 60 days, the Catrambones and their crew saved 3,000 lives. The Phoenix redeployed just this month and has run the total up to 4,441.

As for where the emigrants go after rescue, MOAS says this on their website, “Our primary aim is to prevent loss of life, not to ferry migrants. However, if a situation arises where search and rescue authorities request MOAS to intervene, we will obey orders from start to finish. This includes disembarkation, the location of which will not be determined by MOAS but by the authorities, and according to the laws of the sea.”

(WATCH the video below and READ more at the BBC)

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