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North Korean vessels still calling regularly at Russian ports

At least two vessels linked to North Korea’s Ocean Maritime Management (OMM) continue to call regularly at Russian ports, in spite of international trade sanctions that require the company’s assets to be frozen.

OMM previously owned the two general cargo vessels, but was sanctioned by both the UN and the US last year for its role in smuggling weapons through the Panama Canal.

Thirteen of OMM’s 14 former vessels now have new names and listed owners but are still believed to be linked to the company, according to the most recent UN Panel of Experts report on North Korea.

All UN member states are required to freeze assets and economic resources owned or controlled by the sanctioned company, including vessels.

OMM’s sanctioned singledecker general cargo vessel Hui Chon (5,700 dwt, built 1984; was Hwan Gum San 2) has been inspected six times in two different ports in Russia’s Far East since early July, according to reports from NK News.

The Hui Chon‘s AIS position was last updated 30 days ago, at which time the vessel was underway leaving Russia’s Poiset coal port. The ship was bound for Chong Jin, North Korea’s ‘city of iron’ and home of the Hermit Kingdom’s steel industry.

Inspection records show the North Korean ship has called at least three times at Poiset since early July.

In August, the tweendecker general cargo vessel Kang Gye (9,600 dwt, built 1988) is reported to have called at Russia’s Nakhodka port before sailing back to North Korea.

The vessel’s AIS position was last updated earlier today and shows the vessel to be underway in the Sea of Japan, heading north. No recent ports of call had been logged.

Leo Byrne, who tracks North Korean shipping movements for NKNews, told Splash: “OMM is at the forefront of North Korea’s shadier shipping practices, although since US and UN sanctioned the company over its role in weapons smuggling through the Panama Canal, all its vessels have now – on paper – changed owners and names.”

Hui Chon is managed by Pyongyang-based Pyongjin Ship Management, according to Equasis. Its registered owner is listed as Huichion Shipping Co although its beneficial owner is unknown.

Kang Gye is managed by North Korea’s Yongjin Ship Management; the registered owner is Kanggye Shipping Co. Both companies are based in Pyongyang.


Holly Birkett

Holly is Splash's Online Editor and correspondent for the UK and Mediterranean. She has been a maritime journalist since 2010, and has written for and edited several trade publications. She is currently studying for membership of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers. In 2013, Holly won the Seahorse Club's Social Media Journalist of the Year award. She is currently based in London.
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