Coast Guard spokesman Charles Rowe says the container was loaded aboard The Villa D'Aquarius in India. The manifest says the container was carrying machine parts to be unloaded in Norfolk, Va.
Rowe says a boarding party heard sounds consistent with people coming from the container.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have been notified to meet the vessel. It's scheduled to dock at Port Newark on Wednesday morning.
The ship began its voyage several weeks ago in Pakistan. Rowe says its last port was in Egypt.