The Moldavian-flagged vessel that had issued a distress signal earlier today has been taken under control by Italian officials, that country reports. The vessel was earlier suspected to have been commandeered by traffickers bringing illegal aliens to Croatia.
The Italian responders took control of the vessel after finding that the crew of the vessel had abandoned the vessel. Prior to abandoning the vessel, the smugglers had set the vessel on auto-pilot and programmed it to ram into the southern tip of the heel portion of the country.
The human traffickers also blocked the entrance to the engine room to frustrate attempts at entering and thus avoiding certain disaster.
Although the six Italian personnel have taken control of the bridge and have directional control, they have yet to take control of the engine in order to bring it safely into a port.
Someone on the vessel earlier today sent a distress call out from the ship saying that armed gunman had control of the ship and also said the passengers, immigrants numbering in the hundreds, needed food, water and blankets.
When contacted earlier today, the presumed captain of the vessel reported that the call was incorrect and that the ship was OK, but did say that the vessel was in need of food.
Shortly after contact, the vessel, which had abruptly turned toward the Greek Island of Corfu, quickly changed course 180 degrees, and headed out to sea towards the Italian Island of Crete.
The Italian responders report that all crew from the vessel cannot be found and are thought to have abandoned the vessel prior to the arrival of two Italian helicopters with a team of six coast guard officials. It is reported that many times the human smugglers will abandon ship prior to the vessel reaching shore to avoid arrest.