A vessel sanctioned for smuggling North Korean coal docked at a Chinese port last week, despite its UN designation requiring it be prohibited from using foreign ports.
The 10,000 tonne, formerly Panamanian-flagged, Hua Fu was sanctioned by the UN in March for its role exporting DPRK coal from North Korea to Vietnam numerous times in 2017.
“The Hua Fu loitered off Penglai and Shidao, before delivering coal to Cam Pha on 14 September,” the UN Panel of Experts tasked with monitoring North Korean sanctions enforcement wrote in their most recent report.
“It then again loaded coal on 23 September in Najin, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and attempted to deliver it to Cam Pha, claiming its origin as Nakhodka, despite not having visited any Russian ports for over a year.”
North Korea is prohibited from exporting most of its raw materials, a list which includes coal, iron, copper, zinc, gold, and silver, among others.
The ship’s owner – Chang An Shipping and Technology – was also designated as the “registered owner, ship manager, and commercial manager of Panama-flagged vessel Hua Fu, a cargo ship that loaded DPRK coal at Najin, DPRK on September 24, 2017,” the UN said in a press release accompanying the designations.
The same press release also outlined how the Hua Fu is “subject to de-flagging pursuant to paragraph 12 of resolution 2321 (2016) and prohibited from port entry pursuant to paragraph 6 of resolution 2371 (2017).”
Yet the NK Pro ship tracker captured the Hua Fu’s location on November 28, alongside a berth on the Yangtze River, northeast of Shanghai.
The UN’s restrictions would not apply if the vessel were in distress or if it had been allowed to dock on humanitarian grounds, though satellite imagery indicates the ship is next to a normal cargo dock and not a repair yard.
Shanghai port authorities did not respond to NK News‘s requests for comment on the issue.
According to Port State Control (PSC) records, the Hua Fu has also not been inspected since July 2017 to assess its seaworthiness, and no safety inspection was recorded by local port authorities last week.
Such an inspection would likely be mandatory if a vessel had encountered technical problems severe enough to constitute an emergency, and vessels would not typically be allowed to sail again until any serious issues had been resolved.
A previous NK Pro report noted the vessel’s arrival in Chinese waters earlier in November, after briefly broadcasting its location near Japan’s Okinawa.
The broadcast was the vessel’s first for three months when it was last seen leaving the Shanghai area, a possible indicator it was previously docked somewhere in the region.
The NK Pro report also highlighted how Panama’s maritime authority had stripped the vessel of its registration credentials in line with UN resolutions.
Ships have to be registered somewhere in order to sail and trade internationally, though other countries are also prohibited from certifying ships that have been struck off by other registries for breaking UN sanctions on North Korea.
Currently, the Equasis Maritime Database lists the Hua Fu’s flag status as “unknown”, though still lists the ship as being “in service”.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: NK Pro Ship Tracker
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