UNALASKA, Alaska - A California-bound cargo ship planned an emergency stop in Alaska because crew members heard a pounding noise coming from a deeply buried container, raising fears that it might contain stowaways.
The Manoa, en route from Asia, was expected to reach Dutch Harbor late Wednesday, said Gene Mackarin, manager of the American President Lines terminal at Dutch Harbor.
The container originated in China.
''The captain feels certain there are people inside,'' said Robert Eddy, Alaska district director for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, who spoke with the captain Tuesday.
The crew heard the pounding after a power outage silenced the refrigerators that cool some of the containers, Eddy told the Anchorage Daily News.
A worker traced the sound to a 40-foot, nonrefrigerated container, second from the bottom in a stack of seven on the tightly packed ship.
''The crewman in response tapped on the outside, and there was a responding tap from the inside,'' Eddy said.
The crew punched an air hole into the container but heard nothing more, Mackarin said.
''We are making every effort to pump in extra ventilation, and there is an effort to provide water and food,'' shipping line spokeswoman Jennifer Bronson told USA Today.
The container can't be opened because the space between the containers is too narrow.
Once the 861-foot vessel arrives at Dutch Harbor, options include lifting the other containers off with a shore-side crane or sending a welder into the ship to cut open the container doors. Medics will be on hand, Mackarin said.
The ship picked up cargo at a number of Asian ports ending with Yokohama, Japan, before heading to Oakland, Calif.
American President Lines leased the Manoa from the Matson shipping company, Mackarin said.