U.S. SEIZES CARGO SHIP SUSPECTED OF CARRYING ILLEGAL STOWAWAYS
Wed Jun 27, 2012 10:40am EDT
(Reuters) - U.S. authorities in Newark, New Jersey seized a cargo ship with goods from India and Egypt on Wednesday after hearing what sounded like people stowed away inside a container on the vessel, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
The container was buried beneath others and had not been opened hours after the ship was stopped.
The vessel, Villa D'Aquarius, was stopped at 3 a.m. EDT (0700 GMT) at a standard checkpoint for incoming ships, the Ambrose Anchorage below the Verrazano Bridge in New York Harbor, Coast Guard spokesman Charles Rowe said.
"The boarding team went aboard for a routine inspection. They heard sounds that were consistent with people being inside a container," Rowe said.e
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as well as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal, were notified. Federal authorities rushed to receive the ship at the Newark dock, Rowe said.
As of about 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT), the container remained unopened beneath a stack of others in the hold of the ship about 30 feet down from the deck, he said.
"First it will be determined whether it can be opened as is," said Rowe. "If that is not feasible, the containers above it will be shifted, it will be put on the pier and we will find out what is inside."
The ship, which was flying a Cyprus flag, made two stops in India, a final stop in Egypt and then headed for Newark, ultimately bound for Norfolk, Virginia.
The container in question was supposed to be carrying machine parts and was to be delivered to Norfolk, Rowe said.
A gangplank was pulled up to the vessel and crew members were departing the ship as federal authorities took control, Rowe said.
(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Jim Loney)