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MOAS launches South East Asian Mission for refugees at sea

Posted on 26th February 2016 at 09:13am

Global search and rescue charity Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) will begin a new mission in South East Asia on March 3 in the Andaman Sea. The MY Phoenix and its crew will co-ordinate with local coast guards, navies, NGOs, experts and the media to track, monitor and, if needed, provide search and rescue in co-ordination with the responsible authorities.

The MY Phoenix in Bangkok (photo: Robert Young Pelton / MOAS)

MOAS will maintain positions in the Andaman Sea and adjacent waters. It will use long-distance drones to measure movements of ships that may be transporting refugees or migrants. In meetings between MOAS principals and various local and national government authorities, it was agreed that preventing loss of life at sea was a high priority.

“The task of the MY Phoenix will be to observe and analyse irregular movements at sea with the goal of supporting local stakeholders in providing an enhanced life-saving response. Our aim is to generate a better understanding of the movements by the refugees and migrants and be ready to assist in cases where there is an imminent threat to loss of life,” said MOAS founder Christopher Catrambone.

MOAS will be the first NGO to provide a comprehensive first-hand regional assessment of irregular migration and trafficking using a vessel with an unprecedented technological capability. Data gathered will be analysed and the results shared. The goal is to bring a better understanding and awareness of the problem and encourage everyone to work for sustainable solutions.

MOAS Founder, Christopher Catrambone (photo: Jason Florio/MOASeu)

Supporting MOAS onboard will be two other NGOs. Malta-based NGO MigrantReport.org, a news organisation that focuses on migration issues, will be providing information through its ground networks. Fortify Rights, a human rights organisation based in South East Asia with experience working closely with refugee communities in the region, will manage data collection and documentation, as well as provide contextual guidance.

The innovative Aerovel FlexRotor drones will be operated by US company Precision Integrated Programs of Newberg, Oregon. The Aerovel FlexRotor has a wingspan of three metres and a communication range of 100 km. It can stay in the air for more than 40 hours, spanning more than 3,400 km at an altitude of 900 metres. A steerable, zoomable imaging turret performs search and target tracking with a camera. The new UAV is designed to take off like helicopter and then operate for up to 40 hours as a fixed-wing aircraft while sending high-quality imagery to its control vessel.  

The crew of the MY Phoenix and its two drones will make large continuous and methodical sweeps of the sea to identify vessels, confirm their identity and be able locate large groups of people above or below decks, in day or night. Once the information is collected it will be transmitted to technicians aboard the MY Phoenix, MOAS’ mapping experts in Malta and then to local stakeholders. If a vessel is in peril, the MOAS SAR professionals will respond in a fast rescue boat.

To follow the MOAS mission in South East Asia click here

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