Federal and local authorities have descended on a ship at Port Newark after U.S. Coast Guard officials heard sounds coming from a cargo container below deck during a routine inspection early Wednesday.
Officials suspect there are stowaways in the container that was loaded aboard the Ville d'Aquarius in India. The ship originated in Pakistan.
Coast Guard spokesman Charles Rowe tells NBC 4 New York that the agency was doing a routine boarding at 3 a.m. as the ship was anchored in Ambrose Channel, the main shipping channel serving the Port of New Jersey and New York.
Breaking news and the stories that matter to your neighborhood.
Inspectors "heard sounds coming from one of the containers in the hold consistent with the sounds of people inside," Rowe said.
Numerous agencies were alerted, and on Wednesday morning, the cargo containers were being shifted so that the container in question could be brought onto the pier for closer examination.
Rowe said the container was put on the ship in one of two ports in India -- either Mundra or Nahva Sheva. The ship last left Mundra on June 7, continued to Egypt and left Egypt June 15.
The suspicious container is listed as carrying machine parts, bound for Norfolk, Va., Rowe said.
Officials say they get stowaways in New York/New Jersey harbors about six times a year.
Fan, follow and download: Get the latest from NBC10.com anytime, anywhere. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, our mobile site and NBC Philadelphia. Sign up for our breaking news newsletter. And, get breaking news delivered right to your mobile phone -- just text PHIBREAKING to 639710 to sign up. (Message and data rates may apply.)