Two vessels which were formerly sanctioned by the UN, and still designated by the U.S. have changed their names and flags, recent inspection records show.
Both the Equasis Maritime Database and records collected by Port State Control (PSC) authorities indicate the two ships, previously called the Jin Teng and Jin Tai, are now called the Sheng Da 8 and Sheng Da 6.
Both ships also now sail under a Belize flag, after changing from Sierra Leone. According to the Equasis maritime database, the alterations were made in April, one month after the UN’s most recent designations.
Both the UN and US sanctioned the vessels, due to their links to North Korean companies and individuals involved in aiding the North’s weapons programs.
However, 20 days after the passage of Resolution 2270, the UN rolled back the designations and de-listed four vessels. The ships remained on the U.S. Department of Treasury’s list, which could make it difficult to process payments and costs they might incur as they sail to foreign ports.
The ships have remained active, despite still being sanctioned by Washington. Since the changes, the vessels have been inspected in the Philippines, Japan, Vietnam, China and Indonesia. According to the PSC records they were not detained.
Ships tied to North Korea often rename and change their flags, and even owners and management companies.
Reflagging is a common technique used in the maritime industry to avoid strict environmental or safety practices, though the DPRK has long been suspected of shuffling the identities of its merchant vessels to hide their origins.
So far the two ships have the same management companies and owners. Both are operated by the China based Blue Ocean Ship Management.
The other 27 vessels on the UN’s sanction list have yet to register any changes in their ownership, flags or names. The remaining ships also for the most part keep a low profile, appearing only infrequently on tracking systems.
But the NK News ship tracker shows the ships occasionally broadcast a small amount of tracking data outside of North Korean waters. It is unclear if the vessels are sailing with their tracking systems switched off, or are traveling in areas with poor coverage, though the visibility of many nearby ships implies the latter is unlikely.
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Featured Image: Cargo ship “Lyong–Gun–Bong” by (stephan) on 2008-06-10 10:44:55