There's still no signs of stowaways on a cargo ship that arrived in New Jersey from the Middle East and where knocking was heard, possibly from inside one of the boxes.

The Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Coast Guard are removing containers one at a time to get to the one suspected of holding an unknown number of people.

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

The Department of Homeland Security says 150 containers have been searched since the Ville D'Aquarius docked early Wednesday after a Coast Guard team heard knocking during a routine inspection.

The ship was carrying about 2,000 containers, but searchers had targeted about 200 where they thought the sounds were coming from. Homeland Security says officers and agents are prepared to continue examining containers through the night.

A large number of customs officials were on the dock when the The Ville D'Aquarius docked at Port Newark this morning.

Charles Rowe, public affairs officer for the Coast Guard says during a routine inspection early this morning a noise "consistent with the presence of individuals inside" was heard by a US Coast Guard boarding team. The Coast Guard began procedures to deal with this type of situation.

When asked how many people might be inside the container, Rowe says, "There is absolutely no way to determine who is aboard, if anyone, or how many or anything else about them. All we know at this point is that we heard sounds that are consistent with the presence of individuals inside. That is all that we can confirm. Anything else is reckless speculation," Rowe says.

Media speculation runs from a single stowaway to 23 to upwards of 50. Ambulances were on scene as were hazardous material response teams.

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 Associated Press, Matthew White & Stacy Proebstle  contributed to this story.

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates as we work to develop this story.