Italian officials boarded a cargo ship carrying hundreds of migrants on Tuesday (Dec 30) after it left Greek waters and headed for Italy.
Three coastguard officers were landed from a helicopter onto the Moldovan-flagged Blue Sky M.to check that the vessel was sea-worthy.
Earlier the Greek authorities had received an alarm call referring to armed men on board but the ship’s captain had said all was under control.
The vessel was originally spotted close to the coast of Corfu but suddenly changed course and headed towards Italy.
According to figures from the United Nations refugee agency, 160,000 migrants arrived by sea in Italy and 40,000 in Greece between January and the end of November.
Fleeing the Middle East and North Africa, and often travelling in small, unsafe boats, thousands have died attempting the journey.