North Korea appears to have nearly completed construction on a new pier at its Nampho oil terminal, recent satellite imagery from Planet Labs shows.

The facility, located on the DPRK’s western side, is the country’s primary terminal for handling fuel products from China, though it is also probably used as s refueling point by the North’s ships.

Work on a new pier which would give the facility additional capabilities for offloading fuel products or ship refueling, started in the first half of 2016, though seemed to stall before the project was complete.

But construction on the facility resumed throughout the summer of this year, and appeared to progress rapidly through September.

Nampho oil terminal pier November 3 Image: Planet Labs

Recent satellite images show vessels docked at the at the new pier in October and November, indicating the facility is now in use.

The images also show an additional fuel storage tanker directly to the north of the newly constructed pier, which was also added in the latter half of 2017 and then painted in September.

“The pier will expand Nampho’s ship handling capacity and potentially allow it to handle a larger volume of finished petroleum products,” Scott LaFoy, a Washington based satellite imagery analyst said in September, prior to the pier’s completion.

The addition of new capacity at the terminal comes despite a period of sustained uncertainty for the North’s oil sector.

New UN measures passed in September targeted the DPRK’s oil imports for the first time, setting quotas on both refined and crude oil imports.

A docked ship on October 27 Image: Planet Labs

But the UN resolution also followed several months of plummeting imports from neighboring China, traditionally the DPRK’s largest energy patron, amid reports that the country’s state-owned oil giant had suspended its fuel sales to North Korea.

The reports heralded a sharp drop off in activity from the DPRK’s fleet of small oil tankers, which generally disappeared from international tracking systems, while commercial fuel prices in the country’s capital also began to climb.

The most recent trade figures released by China’s General Administration of Customs show that fuel exports do continue, though typically in smaller quantities than in recent years.

While the development of the pier is perhaps of most significance, Planet Lab imagery also reveals the advancement of multiple construction projects immediately north of the terminal.

North section of Nampho oil terminal November 3 Image: Planet Labs

This includes the apparent completion of three new buildings and the partial completion of a fourth building in an area close to the coastal road leading into Nampo from the West.

Immediately south of these structures, a new surface has been laid over an area of close to 30,000 square meters.

This area also holds what appears to be the possible foundations of oil tanks – similar to those present at the terminal, closer to the pier.

These foundations have remained undeveloped since their installation in mid-2016 and at times, several of these foundations were covered up. All of the foundations appear to be exposed once again.

Immediately east of these foundations, an apparent extension – or at least further construction work – seems to be ongoing on a blue L-shaped blue building complex, which was completed between October 2016 and February 2017.

Featured Image: Google Earth