Updated: Cargo Ship Seized in NJ Port Over Stowaway Suspicion

By MarEx 2012-06-28 10:47:35

Update: After alleged knocking coming from a container on a cargo ship, federal agents report that no stowaways or dangerous cargo were found during the investigation.

A total of 160 containers were thoroughly searched using X-ray machines and K-9 units.

Inspectors first checked the ship around 3 a.m. Wednesday. The vessel is docked at a seaport in Newark, New Jersey. According to a U.S. Coast Guard statement, the containers that were searched will be retagged, reloaded and shipped out with normal procedures, heading toward Virginia as early as Thursday.

The knocking sound still cannot be explained; about 4 witnesses reported hearing it.

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A cargo ship loaded with exports from Egypt and India has been seized by U.S. authorities today. The U.S. Coast Guard suspected stowaways inside one of the vessel’s containers.

The container was buried underneath others and had not been opened hours after the ship was stopped, although the ship's manifest said the container was loaded onto the vessel on June 7 and was carrying machine parts.

About seven ambulances waited outside Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal as numerous containers were moved to the dock for inspection. Authorities knocked on the outside of the containers, listening for noises, and opened and searched them.

The vessel, Villa D'Aquarius, was stopped at a standard checkpoint for incoming ships, the Ambrose Anchorage below the Verrazano Bridge in New York Harbor, reports Reuters Africa. During the routine inspection, the boarding team reported hearing sounds similar to people coming from a container.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as well as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey were notified immediately. Federal authorities then rushed to receive the ship at the Newark dock.

Currently, the container has not yet been opened beneath a massive stack of other containers in the ship’s hold. Many may need to be shifted before the container in suspect can be opened and inspected. A footbridge was pulled up to the vessel and crewmen were exiting the cargo ship as federal authorities took control.

The Cyprus-flagged vessel began its voyage in Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates (UAE), on May 30 and made a stop in Qasim, Pakistan, on June 2. It then made two stops in India, at Nhava Sheva on June 5 and Mundra on June 7, where the container in question was taken onboard, according to the manifest. The ship stopped in Egypt on June 15 and then made way for Newark, ultimately bound for Norfolk, Virginia – where the container was supposed to be delivered.