The naval vessel LÉ Eithne has departed Cork Harbour to participate in the humanitarian mission to rescue migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe.

LÉ Eithne was the first Irish Navy ship to undertake a humanitarian mission in the Mediterranean, when it deployed there in May 2015.

In three months, the ship's crew is credited with saving the lives of more than 3,300 migrants.

Two years on, the numbers saved have increased to 15,621 through six deployments of Irish Naval Service ships.

The crews of four of those have also witnessed loss of life, recovering 76 bodies in total.

LÉ Eithne departed the Naval Service Headquarters at Haulbowline in Cork Harbour at 11am, under the command of one of the Naval Service's most experienced officers, Brian FitzGerald.

It has a crew of 72, including a medic from the Army and one from the Air Corps and hopes to be operational in the Mediterranean in about a week.

The crew spent several months preparing for the Mediterranean mission, where they will operate under a bilateral agreement with Italy.