Britain said it was considering ways to help Europe's refugee crisis on Tuesday following the Mediterranean's worst migrant disaster.
Foreign Minister Philip Hammond told the BBC he wanted a "more formidable operation on the sea", while Prime Minister David Cameron said he wanted to prevent migrants travelling and "stop this cargo of death".
The Ministry of Defence was understood to be considering options on how to help with the crisis at sea, said a source close to the matter speaking on condition of anonymity.
"We've got one of the strongest and best-organised aid budgets anywhere in Europe and we can help stabilise some of these countries," Cameron told BBC radio.
"We've obviously got all sorts of resources at our disposal in terms of national criminal intelligence systems and intelligence services where we can go after the criminal gangs."
Cameron is to set out details of a plan on Thursday at an European leaders emergency summit called to address the crisis.
The prime minister, who is seeking re-election in a May 7 vote, defended the decision to end Mare Nostrum, the Italian search and rescue operation scrapped last October after EU partners including Britain declined to share the cost.
"It seemed that more lives were being lost because of what the Italian navy was doing," Cameron said.
"More people were taking to the sea, more people were dying."
Newspaper The Times reported that the British government was now considering sending a warship to help in what it described as a "significant change of direction".
The government "was now ready to consider helping to meet the costs of countries such as Italy, which are on the front line of the crisis, and assist with the resettlement of refugees," The Times reported, citing diplomats.
Options under consideration included the deployment of one of Britain's biggest warships, the HMS Bulwark, or using the HMS Dauntless destroyer, or naval helicopters to help with surveillance, the newspaper said.