The project nears completion despite possible supply issues and impending ban
North Korea continued work on a new pier at its primary oil facility in Nampho throughout June and August, satellite imagery from Planet Labs shows, despite lower imports from China during the same period.
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 more recent imagery indicates the work resumed in the summer months, with photos from September showing the construction nearing completion.
“There has been very significant progress on the pier in the last two months and appears to be nearing completion,” Scott LaFoy, a Washington-based satellite imagery analyst told NK Pro.
“The pier will expand Nampho’s ship handling capacity and potentially allow it to handle a larger volume of finished petroleum products.”
Imagery from Google Earth also shows another fuel tank apparently under construction just to the North of the new pier, though work on the structure seems to be on pause.
The new pier appears to be just one of several upgrades on the site in recent years, which includes the addition of new storage tanks and additional buildings.
Further work also appears to be underway to the north of the existing facility, with more construction near several circular objects that could be new, yet to be completed storage tanks.
The project’s completion comes despite North Korea potentially facing supply disruptions, and as the UN Security Council discusses a potential oil embargo on all incoming fuel products.
The Nampho facility is the DPRK’s largest above ground storage facility outside of its refineries, and the main drop off for fuel products coming from China.
Some Russian oil likely made its way to the Nampho terminal via tanker after being loaded in Vladivostok, previous NK News reports indicate.
But Washington recently sanctioned several Russian companies and individuals involved in supplying the DPRK with oil, for their involvement in a dollar laundering operation.
The U.S. Treasury Department’s designations may have halted Russian supplies for now, while shipments from China were also relatively low in previous months.
Reports from Reuters claimed Beijing’s state run China National Petroleum Corporation oil company had suspended fuel sales to North Korea, though Chinese trade figures indicate the shipments continued in a reduced capacity.
The NK Pro ship tracker also indicates some minimal oil tanker activity, with one tanker recently appearing near a privately owned Chinese facility near Shanghai.
Additional NK Pro data indicates the disruptions may have affected commercial fuel prices in Pyongyang, which rose sharply in April this year and remained high since.
Featured image: Planet Labs
Additional reporting by Hamish Macdonald
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