The UK Royal Navy's multirole survey vessel HMS Enterprise has been deployed to evacuate up to 300 British citizens from Tripoli, amid worsening violence in Libya as rival militias vie for power.
The move follows the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office's (FCO) decision to temporarily shut down its embassy and other consular operations in Libya, after 22 people were killed on 2 August during a battle for control of Tripoli International Airport.
Urging British people to leave the north-African state, a UK Foreign Office spokesperson said: "We are currently carrying out an assisted departure. The majority of those being evacuated are British."
According to the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), the Plymouth-based HMS Enterprise was in Mediterranean waters and was redirected to Tripoli to transport British nationals to Malta.
A MoD spokesperson was quoted by The Telegraph as saying: "As the FCO has made clear, the UK Government will provide assisted departure for a number of UK nationals before suspending consular operations on Monday.
"For operational reasons we will not discuss further details including whether, and in what ways, the MoD could support these efforts."
HMS Enterprise commanding officer commander Mark Varta said: "This is a period of uncertainty for UK citizens based in Libya, but we have been proud to play our part in enabling their move to safety.
"My ship's company have adapted to the challenge superbly, making as much space as possible and providing essential food, shelter and security for the journey."
The 90m-long survey vessel has been on an 18-month mission executing surveys in the Bay of Biscay, Mediterranean, Red Sea and Gulf, to renew international navigation charts.
Image: The UK Royal Navy's multirole survey vessel HMS Enterprise. Photo: courtesy of Sounddezign.