Colleen Dingle and her son stand on a Halifax dock as her husband, Leading Seaman Jason Dingle, and other crew members of HMCS Charlottetown prepare to leave their home port on Wednesday morning. (Stephen Puddicombe/CBC)

HMCS Charlottetown began its week-long voyage on Wednesday from Halifax to the waters off Libya's coastline to help evacuate Canadians from the strife-torn north African country.

The warship pulled away from its dock at its home port in Halifax Harbour around 10:10 a.m. AT.

The navy dockyard was bustling earlier in the morning as crews put the last provisions on the frigate and duffle-carrying sailors kissed their families goodbye.

Crew members found out Tuesday morning they were heading to the waters off Libya, where rebels continue to fight supporters of leader Moammar Gadhafi.

They couldn't tell their families about the mission until Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced it in the House of Commons hours later, CBC reporter Phonse Jessome said.


A crew member of HMCS Charlottetown prepares to remove the vessel's dockline. (Phonse Jessome/CBC)Harper said the frigate and its 240 crew members would assist in the evacuation effort.

240 crew to aid evacuation

Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Charlottetown will be available to assist in any potential humanitarian mission as part of a U.S.-led task force in the Mediterrean. But the minister said it could also enforce any embargoes approved by the United Nations or NATO.

The journey from Halifax to the waters off Libya is expected to take six or seven days.

There are an estimated 100 to 200 Canadians still in the north African country. A military transport plane was refused permission to land at the main airport on Tuesday.

Canada currently has two C-17 military cargo planes and two Hercules aircraft in nearby Malta.

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