Durban - Police are investigating the grisly discovery of two decomposing bodies, believed to be stowaways, found on a ship in Durban harbour on Sunday.

They were found on the MV King Sugar, a bulk carrier registered in Panama, shortly after it docked in Maydon Wharf.

Thami Ntshingila, the Durban manager of Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), said they were found by crew on a stairway leading to one of the vessel’s hatches.

“The cause of death is unknown and the bodies have not been identified.”

He said the ship arrived from Argentina, with a stop in Cape Town.

“As the vessel is docked at Maydon Wharf, the TNPA immediately notified the relevant authorities. The police and the South African Maritime Safety Association are investigating.”

Police spokesman Thulani Zwane said an inquest docket had been opened. “We are waiting for post-mortem results.”

The MV King Sugar is 169m long with a 17 025 gross tonnage.

According to MarineTraffic, an online vessel locater, the MV King Sugar left Campana in Argentina on May 29, and made a quick stop in Port of Recalada in that country before sailing to Cape Town.

A source said the bodies were found by the ship’s engineer after docking. The source added that the last time stowaways were found dead on a ship in Durban harbour was “probably eight months ago”.

In April, The Mercury reported that stowaways in Durban and Richards Bay were costing shipping companies thousands of rands. The report stated that it cost between $10 000 (R106 000) and $12 000 to repatriate one stowaway.

In March and April, 32 stowaways – mostly from Tanzania and west Africa – were found on ships docking in Durban.

The Mercury