A sanctioned North Korean vessel formerly belonging to Ocean Maritime Management (OMM) – the company behind smuggling weapons through the Panama Canal in 2013– made use of a Russian port last week, before sailing back to the DPRK.
Previous NK News investigations indicate that since OMM and its vessels were sanctioned by both the UN and the U.S. Department of Treasury, the fleet has kept a very low profile.
Many of its ships ceased transmitting their positions and all of them changed their names and associated companies, a common practice in North Korea’s commercial fleet.
Recently many of the ships appear to have resumed operating, broadcasting their positions in international waters around China and North Korea in June and July.
However according to the NK News vessel tracker, the Hui Chon last week pulled into the Russian port of Vanino, where it remained for three days before heading to the DPRK’s Chongjin port.
Seeing OMM’s vessels visiting ports outside of China and North Korea is relatively rare, though the Hui Chon also passed through a Japanese port back in March.
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not reply to requests for comment on the news.
How authorities should treat OMM associated ships remains open to interpretation.
Mexico appears to have recently set a precedent with another of OMM’s ships, the Mu Du Bong.
The 7,000 ton freighter is still in Mexico’s Tuxpan Port after more than a year. Local media reports the crew have been repatriated and the vessel is now under the jurisdiction of the Port Authority, however the Mexican authorities have issued no formal statements.
The latest version of the UN Panel of Experts (PoE) recommends the seizure of vessels associated with OMM by member states.
“The latest POE report contains a chart, indicating that the Hui Chon is an OMM ship … UNSCR 1718 and 2094 give the nations the obligation to seize all economic resources of an entity breaking sanctions. According to the UN PoE, that includes ships controlled, directly or indirectly, by Ocean Maritime Management,” Joshua Stanton, an attorney and author of the One Free Korea blog told NK News when the Hui Chon was in Japan.
The PoE report also claims the ship’s current owner is an OMM shell company, however the PoE’s recommendations have yet to be adopted by the Security Council, a necessary step for the implantation of UN sanctions.
North Korea and Russia’s relationship has been the subject of much media speculation recently. The warming political climate between the two was reaffirmed yesterday by state run media outlet the Rodong Sinmun.
The media outlet published an article marking the 15th anniversary of the joint agreement between the two countries.
“To develop a positive relation between DPRK and Russia would be beneficial for the people in both countries and would also ensure peace and security in Asia and in the world,” Kim Jong Un said in comments carried by Rodong Sinmun.
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Featured Image: mooring by berkuspic on 2014-01-17 17:24:58