Approximately 150 Canadians will be flown out of Libya Thursday on the first chartered flight organized by the Canadian government for its citizens who want out of the country.

The Foreign Affairs Department says that a chartered aircraft will fly from Rome to Tripoli to pick up the Canadians, and then return to the Italian city. Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, who will be in Rome to meet with his Italian counterpart, Franco Frattini, will meet the flight at the airport when it lands around 5 p.m. local time, the department announced late Wednesday.

Efforts are also underway to get Canadians out of Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city, which has been a focal point of the protests against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Canadians in that city will likely be taken out by chartered boat, CTV's Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife reported Wednesday.

Earlier Wednesday, 26 Canadians boarded a U.S.-flagged ship in Tripoli harbour. However, bad weather kept the ship in port, where it is expected to remain overnight. It should set sail for Malta on Thursday. Foreign Affairs says all Canadians on board the ship are safe.

Lynn Meahen, a spokesperson for Cannon, told The Canadian Press Wednesday that priority is being given to Canadian citizens and their immediate family, as well as those with permanent resident status. The usual exit visa requirement is being waived.

Fife said the federal government believes there are more Canadians in Libya than first reported, perhaps as many as 700.

Evacuees will be charged $500 for their seat on the Skylink flight to Rome, although they won't have to pay in advance. The aircraft can carry as many as 220 passengers.

Those hoping to board the flight are advised to be at Tripoli airport -- with one piece of luggage each weighing no more than 20 kilograms -- as early as possible on Thursday.

Further flights will likely be scheduled, and government officials are also negotiating with countries like France, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia to secure seats for Canadians on their flights out of Libya.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff accused the federal government Wednesday of being too slow to begin the evacuation process, blaming the delay on a lack of resources at the embassy in Tripoli.

"It's always the same story," Ignatieff said. "We need diplomats in place to help Canadians when they find themselves in trouble. Now we're seeing the fruits of this government's neglect of Canadian diplomacy."

NDP MP Paul Dewar said despite concerns about the capacity of Canada's foreign embassies to assist Canadians, the government has clearly "figured out how to do this" after the recent evacuation efforts to get Canadian citizens out of violence-torn Egypt.

"It's a matter of getting all hands on deck and that's what they've been trying to do," Dewar told CTV's Power Play. "So on this one, I think that they've had some practice here."

While Foreign Affairs has strongly urged Canadians to get out of Libya, any Canadians opting to remain in the country are advised to maintain a week-long supply of food, water and cooking fuel, as well as some form of emergency lighting.

Judging by the crush at Tripoli's airport, however, there is little doubt that thousands of foreign nationals are eager to leave the chaos that's seizing the North African nation.

A pair of Turkish ships ferried some 3,000 citizens out of the country on Wednesday, bringing the number of its citizens evacuated in the last three days to 5,300.

"We are carrying out the largest evacuation operation in our history," said Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet, referring to the 25,000 Turkish nationals believed to be working in Libya.

Turkey has also fielded requests from at least 21 other countries seeking assistance to get their people out too, Davutoglu said.

More than a dozen countries including Russia, China, Germany and Ukraine have dispatched planes to whisk their citizens out.

In addition to the evacuation effort, Canada is currently considering how to respond to Gadhafi's violent and deadly crackdown on protesters, Meahen said.

The federal government is "currently considering all options," she said, including imposing sanctions.

With files from The Associated Press and The Canadian Press