Premier Paolo Gentiloni announced last week that Italy was considering a request from Libya for assistance after meeting with Libya’s UN-backed prime minister Fayez al-Sarraj in Rome.
More than 95,000 migrants have landed in Italy this year, and many of them departed from Libya and made the perilous journey across the Mediterranean.
Italian authorities anticipate that collaboration with the Libyan coast guard will help stem this flow, which is putting an immense strain on Italian resources.
Italian Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti said Italy would provide technical support without infringing on Libya’s sovereignty, but would not take part in what she described as a "hostile" naval blockade designed to prevent the departure of migrant boats.
The defence ministry on Wednesday said that the Italian ship the Comandante Borsini had entered Libyan territorial waters after receiving the necessary authorisations.
The ship was headed towards the port of the city of Tripoli and will conduct “the necessary reconnaissance activities” to be able to decide on coordination for subsequent activities, the ministry said in a statement.