A North Korean vessel sank after colliding with a Chinese oil tanker on March 9, China’s Ministry of Transport said on Monday.
The 8500 ton Kum San struck the tanker near Lianyungang port in China’s northeast. The collision breached the hull of the North Korean ship and it subsequently sank. The 27 crew members were all rescued, and the Chinese vessel was not damaged in the incident.
The cause of the accident has not yet been ascertained, and no incident report has yet been filed with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). The Kum San’s last positional broadcast was on March 8 at 3.11PM.
It’s currently unclear why there are no later records of the ship’s position. The NK Pro vessel tracker shows the Kum San was waiting near the Chinese port along with numerous other DPRK ships.
Data from vessel tracking site Marine Traffic shows other ships broadcast their positions more consistently on March 8 and 9, indicating that tracking coverage in the area was not an issue and that the Kum San’s positional transponder was either malfunctioning or switched off.
Vessels over 300 tons are required to have their automatic identification system (AIS) transponders activated all times in order to prevent collisions.
The DPRK cargo ship had been holding position near the port for over two weeks and appeared to be sitting relatively low in the water, so it may have had a full cargo.
Analysis of the ship’s previous positions shows the ship called at numerous ports in the region, from coal to other bulk, as well as more general cargo terminals around China.
The vessel also previously visited ports in India, and inspection records show the Kum San had traveled to Iran’s Bandar Abbas port in 2010, where it was found to have 43 safety deficiencies and was detained for two days.
The North Korean ship did not generally exhibit the characteristics associated with some of the DPRK fleet’s less reputable members, though a 2015 inspection in China claimed the ship was using a Sierra Leone flag.
But it seems the flag change was short-lived, and within a year the Kum San was once again registered in North Korea.
The incident is likely bad news for the vessel’s owner, the Pyongyang-based Kumsan Shipping. According to the Equasis Maritime Database, the Kum San was the only vessel on the company’s books.
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Featured Image: Ship by flightlog on 2011-07-19 14:14:35