Tanker linked to previous sanctions evasion returns to oil smuggling zone
The visit is the second time this month the tanker has advertised its location in the area
A tanker owned by a company with ties to North Korea’s sanctions evasion programs returned to an area of ocean which is a likely smuggling hotspot, the NK Pro ship tracker shows.
The Sierra Leone-flagged Xin Hai once again broadcast its position in waters east of Shanghai on March 30, the second time this month.
Both the Xin Hai’s recent ports of call and destination in the middle of the ocean have been highlighted as possible areas involved in North Korea’s oil smuggling operations.
UN resolutions restrict the amount of oil member states can export to DPRK, though Pyongyang has circumvented the rules by arranging for transfers to happen at sea, away from the authorities and customs agencies.
The Xin Hai has now made several trips to the area, and briefly broadcast its location three times after its arrival. The tanker then typically reappears to the north of Taiwan or within nearby Chinese coastal waters.
A previous NK Pro report outlined the tanker’s links to previous cases of sanctions-busting via its current owners Baili Shipping and Trading.
The company has ties to a Chinese national called Zhang Qiao who was heavily involved in the Jie Shun case, a failed attempt to export North Korean made rocket-propelled grenades to Egypt in 2016.
Zhang also owned another company called Bene Star which according to the UN Panel of Experts (PoE) “is a key node connecting multiple companies linked to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and vessels associated with the Ocean Maritime Management Company, Limited (OMM).”
“In addition, Mr. Zhang runs several other businesses which have been investigated by the Panel, including Baili Shipping and Trading Ltd, and which had business dealings involving OMM-associated vessels,” the Panel wrote in their 2017 report.
Zhang was still listed as Baili’s owner as of its most recent company filing in Hong Kong, though the company is also currently listed as “dissolved”.
According to the Equasis maritime database, the company was being dissolved even as it acquired the Xin Hai oil tanker in 2017, and a company which gives a “care of” address back to Baili Shipping and Trading is still listed as the owner current owner.
If the vessel is delivering oil to DPRK tankers at sea, it would differ from other smuggling cases which have mainly operated out Taiwan or Singapore, indicating that North Korea’s China-based third-party sanctions evaders have transposed their weapons smuggling experience into North Korea’s illicit commodity trading.
Featured image: Japan Ministry of Defense
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