Vessel which transshipped North Korean coal arrives in South Korea
Vessel moved DPRK coal from Russia to China, according to Panel of Experts
A vessel identified by the UN Panel of Experts for transporting North Korean coal in a probable breach of UN resolutions arrived in South Korea over the weekend, the NK Pro ship tracker shows.
The Liberian-flagged Great Roc was still docked in South Korea’s Pyongtaek Port at the time of writing, after sailing from eastern China.
According to the UN Panel of Expert’s (PoE) 2018 report, the Great Roc – then called the Great Spring – loaded DPRK coal discharged by the Sun Union on 28 June 2017 in the Russian Far East and delivered it to China two weeks later.
Despite carrying designated cargos, the vessel was not blacklisted or added to multilateral or unilateral designation lists and has continued sailing around Asia and the Russian Far East in the intervening years.
The delivery occurred before the UN Security Council (UNSC) enacted an outright ban on DPRK coal exports in August 2017, but the North’s raw materials were still under restrictions and had been since early 2016.
The Chinese-owned vessel also played a role in the complicated transshipment of coal, rather than a direct delivery, a technique that the DPRK uses to occlude the origin of its cargos.
Since the transgression, the ship has also changed name and flag, though the Equasis Maritime Database indicates its operators remain the same.
As the vessel is not designated, the ship’s visit to South Korea is unlikely to raise red flags among local port authorities, though Seoul’s relatively lax policy on suspicious ship activity has already played a role in the country importing DPRK coal and iron in breach of UN resolutions.
But South Korea is also the only country in the region seizing vessels for possible infractions, with the latest detention announcement coming in April this year.
A South Korean lawmaker said at the time that Seoul had seized and was investigating a vessel for transporting 3,217 tonnes North Korean coal into the South from the Russian Far East.
The Togo-flagged DN5505 broadcast its location in Pohang port on the country’s east coast for over two months and went from Russia via China before arriving in South Korea.
“The government grudgingly recognized that the vessel was shipping North Korean coal and kicked off the investigation,” Yoo Ki-june of South Korea’s opposition Liberty Korea Party said in comments carried by South Korean media.
Yoo added the possible North Korean coal delivery wasn’t the first time the DN5505 transported DPRK coal to South Korea, saying that another 2,588 tonnes had been imported in November last year.
The vessel was also not on any blacklists, though an NK Pro report also published in November highlighted the DN5505’s trip to South Korea and its apparent ties to companies involved in some of North Korea’s most notorious sanctions evasion mechanisms.
Edited by James Fretwell
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