Stowaways suspected in container ship docked in NJ
by Samantha Henry, Associated Press
June 27, 2012 02:15 PM | 919 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The container ship Ville D'Aquarius docked at Port Newark Container Terminal (PNCT) located in Port Newark, N.J., as seen from the Ahern Veterans Stadium off of 26th Street in Bayonne on Wednesday, June 27, 2012. The U.S. Coast Guard suspects there may be stowaways in one of the containers on the ship. (AP Photo/The Jersey Journal, Reena Rose Sibayan/)
The container ship Ville D'Aquarius docked at Port Newark Container Terminal (PNCT) located in Port Newark, N.J., as seen from the Ahern Veterans Stadium off of 26th Street in Bayonne on Wednesday, June 27, 2012. The U.S. Coast Guard suspects there may be stowaways in one of the containers on the ship. (AP Photo/The Jersey Journal, Reena Rose Sibayan/)
slideshow
Container Stowaways Slideshow
Officials arrive at Port Newark to investigate reports of stowaways in a container inside a ship, Wednesday, June 27, 2012, in Newark, N.J. The Coast Guard suspects there are stowaways in a container that was loaded on a ship. Coast Guard spokesman Charles Rowe says a boarding party heard sounds consistent with people coming from the container. The container was loaded aboard The Villa D'Aquarius in India. The manifest says the container was carrying machine parts to be unloaded in Norfolk, Va. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
view slideshow (4 images)
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ Dock workers rushed to unload containers stacked on top of one another inside a cargo ship that arrived in New Jersey from the Middle East on Wednesday after Coast Guard officials heard knocking from one during a routine inspection, suggesting that stowaways might be on board.

More than a dozen ambulances and law enforcement officials met the 850-foot vessel when it docked early Wednesday at Port Newark, one of the nation’s busiest ports. Large mechanical cranes began unloading containers from the ship.

By midday Wednesday, all but one ambulance had quietly left the pier. U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Anthony Bucci said officials so far had checked 40 out of 2,000 containers on the Ville D’Aquarius.

The Coast Guard team had boarded the ship outside New York Harbor early Wednesday as the ship prepared to dock, spokesman Charles Rowe said. The officers were knocking on containers during a sound check, “and they knocked on this one and they heard a knocking back,” spokeswoman Michelle Krupa told the Star-Ledger of Newark.

The team followed protocol and didn’t open the container at sea in order to control the situation, Coast Guard spokesman Charles Rowe said.

Drew Barry, of the Sandy Hook Pilots Association, said he boarded the vessel about 20 miles offshore to help pilot it into port.

“There are at least 30 to 40 containers on top of the hatch cover, and I don’t know how many more below it,” Barry said. “If there are people down there, with no food and water for days, they’re probably pretty desperate by now.”

He estimated late Wednesday morning that it would take several hours, if not much of the day, to get to the part of the ship, below the hatch cover, where officials heard banging noises.

The container, which a manifest said was carrying machine parts to Norfolk, Va., was loaded in India, Rowe said.

The ship began its voyage May 30 in the United Arab Emirates, then made one stop in Pakistan and two stops in India. Its last port before Newark was in Egypt on June 15.

The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement Wednesday that officials are conducting a “thorough investigation of the vessel.”

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