Vessels tied to sanctioned shipping company Ocean Maritime Management (OMM) are making more frequent use of Russian ports, the NK News vessel tracker shows.
While the vessel was seen visiting the Russian port of Vanino in early July, data from Marine Traffic and ship inspection records indicate the sanctioned Hui Chon (formerly the Hwan Gum San 2) is now a regular visitor to ports in the Russian far east.
The Hui Chon was inspected six times in two different Russian ports since early July. Port inspections are usually to ascertain if a vessel is meeting safety and environmental standards.
“My personal view is the vessel should be frozen as an economic resource of a designated entity,” an expert familiar with UN sanctions said concerning the Hui Chon’s Russian visits.
According to the inspection records, the North Korean ship made at least three visits to the Poiset, a coal handling port very close to the DPRK.
It was also joined in August by another member of OMM’s former fleet, the 14000 tonne Kang Gye. The general cargo ship was last seen heading back to North Korea after visiting Russia’s Nakhodka port.
The six inspections mark the first occasion an OMM ship has been inspected in Asian waters since January this year, with only one other vessel subject to inspection in 2015.
The vessels’ former owner OMM was sanctioned by both the UN and the U.S. Department of Treasury last year, for its role in smuggling weapons through the Panama Canal.
Treasury’s sanctions also included the vessels IMO numbers, a unique identifier that does not change throughout the life of the ship.
Since the sanctions all ships belonging to OMM have all changed names and owners. According to the most recent UN Panel of Experts report on North Korea, the vessels are still believed to be tied to OMM.
“Member States are obliged by resolutions 1718 (2006) and 2094 (2013) to immediately freeze assets and economic resources owned or controlled by OMM … the Panel considers assets and resources of any kind including vessels,” the report reads.
The PoE report also claims the ship’s current owner is an OMM shell company, but the Panel’s recommendations have yet to be adopted by the Security Council, a necessary step for the implantation of UN sanctions.
Mexican authorities appear to have taken a harder line on the Mu Du Bong, another OMM vessel which ran aground of the country’s east coast in 2014. Although there has been no formal announcement, the vessel’s crew have all been repatriated.
Featured image: Marine Traffic
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