The Sierra Leone Maritime Administration (SLMARAD) said it is investigating North Korea-linked vessels that may be registered with the organization in breach of UN resolutions.
Some countries allow foreign companies to purchase vessel registration documents and flags, the practice is generally not illegal though the DPRK is prohibited from doing so by the UN Security Council (UNSC).
North Korea has long abused the practice of registering vessels abroad to obfuscate its involvement with certain ships, cargos, and companies.
“Please be informed that Sierra Leone flag is exercising utmost efforts to address these allegations and investigate this matter,” a SLMARAD representative said in a message to NK News.
“We would like to ensure you that any vessel proved to have direct or indirect links to DPRK will be canceled from our Registry.”
SLMARAD also released a circular in January warning vessels and companies using the Sierra Leone registry that they would face penalties if the were not in-line with sanctions regimes.
The comments follow an NK News report which highlighted how several vessels previously registered in Panama were deleted from the Panamanian registry for their ties to North Korea.
But the ships were quickly reflagged to Sierra Leone, an apparent breach of UN resolutions which prohibit member states from providing maritime services to vessels which have been struck off maritime registries.
“All Member States shall de-register any vessel that is owned, controlled, or operated by the DPRK, and further decides that Member States shall not register any such vessel that has been de-registered by another Member State,” paragraph 24 of UN Resolution 2321 reads.
A previous NK News investigation also found that Chinese nationals linked to North Korean sanctions evasion were also previously working as SLMARAD representatives in China.
The NK Pro ship tracker shows that there are still more than 10 Sierra Leone-flagged links with possible links to North Korea. The vessels do not appear to visit the DPRK and instead are mainly engaged in moving between Japan, South Korea, and China.
The list also includes the Harmony Wish, a vessel which transported Transporter Erector Launcher (TELs) to the DPRK in 2012.
Although the cargo was not aboard the ship when it was searched by Japanese authorities, they did find documentation which said the TELs had been unloaded in North Korea.