The C-Star, the group wrote on Twitter, was “having technical difficulty. We’re resolving it. No distress. #DefendEurope.”
The group’s Italian leader, Lorenzo Fiato, did not respond to a request for a comment. But last month in Milan, where he lives with his parents and sleeps in a room surrounded by board games like “The Middle Ages,” he argued that the aid ships did not in fact rescue anyone.
“It’s not true the NGOs save lives,” he said, referring to the nongovernment organizations that operate many of the aid ships. “Yes, they rescue people from shipwrecks. But do they guarantee these people a new life?”
Mr. Fiato had spoken in heroic terms of his earlier effort to brave seasickness and stop — for a few minutes, anyway — an aid ship in Catania, Sicily, from leaving a port. For this voyage he had packed anti-seasickness gum and had a gleam in his eye when he spoke of his seafaring vessel.
“We have a 40-meter search-and-survey ship given to us by a private person who saw what we did in Catania,” he said, “and gave it to us for a cut-rate price of 60,000 euros.”
More than 95,000 migrants have arrived in Italy this year, and more than 2,000 have died at sea. The issue of migration, especially regarding the private aid ships that now rescue more than 40 percent of the migrants at sea, has dominated politics in Italy.
The suspicion that some aid groups have helped traffickers provided a chief motivation, and talking point, for the C-Star’s stated mission of monitoring the aid ships. But many humanitarian groups accused the C-Star of getting in the water to disrupt the saving of lives.
Mr. Fiato, echoing right-wing politicians, accused the aid ships of turning off their transponders so they could dodge the authorities as they colluded with human traffickers to bring migrants to Europe.
But Mr. Buschheuer of the rescue ship said that when his colleagues on the Sea Eye sought to identify the C-Star from afar, they could not see its name because its automatic identification…