ESQUIMALT, B.C. - The frigate HMCS Vancouver is preparing to leave for the Mediterranean Sea to take part in the NATO-led mission in Libya.

Vancouver, a Halifax-class frigate, carries about 250 officers and crew and includes a CH-124 Sea King helicopter and air detachment.

The ship will replace HMCS Charlottetown, which has been on patrol with NATO forces in the region since the early spring.

In March, Canada sent fighter jets, patrol planes, aerial tankers and the warship to join a United Nations-sanctioned mission to protect civilians from Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

The mission includes bombing by NATO countries who are trying to drive Gadhafi from power.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird visited Libya this week after Canada recognized rebels fighting Gadhafi as the legitimate government of that country.