The Italian Navy has deployed the Tremiti, a maintenance ship and a crew of 50 sailors to the Libyan Navy base in Tripoli, which is home to a section of the navy loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Prime Minister Fayez Mustafa al-Serraj, who heads the Presidency Council.
In a statement, Libyan Navy spokesman Brigadier-General Ayoub Qasim said the Tremiti docked in Tripoli on August 8 for a training and maintenance mission.
He said the fifty crew members would soon start work on the maintenance of Libyan naval vessels in line with a 2008 agreement for the training of Libyan navy forces as well as the maintenance, restoration and upgrade of operational platforms and vessels.
Through the agreement, the Italian Navy seeks to develop the technical and combat capabilities of the Libyan Navy. The deployment came a week after the Libyan National Army (LNA) threatened to attack Italian Navy vessels operating in Libyan waters.
Led by Khalifa Haftar, the LNA is loyal to the House of Representatives (HOR) government. It is politically and militarily opposed to the Tripoli-based, UN-recognised GNA government and their forces continue to clash in many fronts across Libya.
The GNA-Presidency Council is one of three governments vying for control of Libya. It derives its mandate from United Nations recognition as the legitimate interim authority set up to stabilise and secure Libya from the post-revolutionary security chaos that took root after the collapse of the government of Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011.
Italy has provided other naval assistance to Libya, including four refurbished fast patrol boats in May, with another six due to be delivered this year. They are Bigliani class fast patrol boats produced by Intermarine.
A Libyan naval officer told Agence France Presse the vessels had been due for delivery in 2014, but this date was pushed back because of violence and instability in the North African country.
In 2009 Italy donated six Bigliani class patrol boats to Libya to monitor its 1 770 km Mediterranean coastline. Two subsequently broke down and became unserviceable and four were sent back to Italy for maintenance in 2012 and were not returned as Italy did not recognise the Tripoli government.
Italy and the European Union promised in February to spend millions of euros to help the Tripoli government upgrade its coast guard fleet, and some 90 crew have been trained by the EU, Reuters reports.
But Libyan officials say they need far more equipment than the vessels being delivered by Italy, none of which is new. Smugglers in Libya have packed hundreds of thousands of migrants attempting to reach Europe onto unsafe boats over the past four years, and thousands have died trying to make the crossing.
Meanwhile, a Libyan militia that controls the Mitiga Airport in Tripoli has announced the seizure of nearly 1 000 loaded 9mm pistols from a cargo of clothing that was airlifted from Turkey.
The Rada Special Deterrent Force said boxes of ammunition for the pistols were found hidden inside garment boxes which formed part of the cargo consignment. No details of the shipper or consignee were given. The arms cargo was detected by a mobile cargo X-ray scanner.