A ship laden with relief supplies for Gaza was preparing to depart Larnaca on Saturday as part of efforts to aid a population on the brink of famine.

The European Commission has said a maritime aid corridor between Cyprus and Gaza could start operating as early as this weekend in a pilot project run by an international charity and financed by the UAE.

The Open Arms, a vessel owned by a Spanish NGO and more accustomed to rescuing migrants at sea, was expected to be deployed in the first mission. It was still at the port of Larnaca in Cyprus on Saturday afternoon, live images from Reuters TV showed, and authorities could not give a precise departure time.

Cyprus lies about 210 miles north-west of Gaza, or about 15 hours sailing time.

Deputy government spokesman Yiannis Antoniou said that the first mission will be a pilot one to see how it will operate and to examine practical issues that could arise.

He added that the aid being sent is mostly food, water and other necessary items.

Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos also weighed in on the corridor on Saturday saying he was optimistic the first mission would leave over the weekend.

Kombos’ and Antoniou’s statements come a day after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that the official launch of ‘Amalthea’ would be on Sunday and that a pilot mission was supposed to leave Friday night.

But in statements on Saturday, Kombos said that the planning is for this weekend as there are some unspecified issues that have yet to be clarified.

“There is optimism that over the weekend the operation will be activated.”

Kombos said that these works should be done as quickly as possible, but the aim is “not for the speed to affect efficiency, to have a balance”.

Asked whether the pilot run took place on Friday as Von der Leyen had suggested, the minister said that the pilot mission was the same as the first and should officially launch on Sunday.

The minister added that what matters for Cyprus is that the government has responsibility and control over the mechanism.

But he noted that no one is under the illusion that they can completely control the situation.

“There are various issues, that’s why we say the window is this weekend as long as there is nothing to avert this, like any incident, whether in Gaza, Israel or on the borders with Lebanon that causes unrest which you realise will affect the operation, even the weather can cause problems. That’s the situation right now,” he added.

On Friday, UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric also spoke about the corridor.

Dujarric said the UN team led by Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza, Sigrid Kaag is coordinating in cooperation with the partners in Cyprus the operation of the maritime corridor for the transfer of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Speaking at a press briefing, said that Kaag “had been in close contact with Cyprus and she’s been involved in discussions on the initiative as an additional access route to Gaza, in line with her mandate.”

He added that Kaag “has a technical team in Cyprus to work with the partners who are organising this.”

Obviously, he noted, within the framework of the mechanisms under Resolution 2720, Kaag “has been in close contact with the government of Cyprus as they are leading the maritime corridor”. He added that she has been involved “in discussions on the initiative as an additional access route to Gaza, in line with her mandate.”

According to Dujarric “the operational details of the specific maritime shipments or the building of the dock or of the port are being managed by the partners to the initiative.”

“Everything is fast moving, he said.

The UN coordinator has a mandate from the Security Council to help, strengthen and monitor the arrival of humanitarian aid for the Palestinians in need.