UK report links Panama flag with illicit North Korean shipments

UK report links Panama flag with illicit North Korean shipments

The world’s largest shipping registry has been embroiled in a scandal involving sanctions-busting North Korea.

A 27-page report from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a UK security think tank, highlights how three individuals from the Chinese port city of Dalian have been working for entities entrusted by both the Panamanian and Mongolian flags to survey ships and authorise certificates, including for a number of North Korean-linked vessels.

The three men – Fan Mintian, Dong Changqing, and Zhang Qiao – stand accused of helping the Kim Jong Un regime flout sanctions.

RUSI found that Fan and Dong have worked as surveyors for an organisation authorised by Panama called Panama Maritime Documentation Services (PMDS), and have provided various certificates to North Korean-linked ships.

Fan and Dong were embroiled in an earlier North Korean illegal shipping incident when the vessel Light, managed by their company Dalian Sea Star Ship Technology, was “suspected of transporting North Korean missile technology to Myanmar”.

PMDS was also found to share an address and other contact details in Dalian, a city located near the North Korean border, with Fan and Dong’s companies, as well as another surveyor authorised by Mongolia called International Maritime Survey Association (IMSA), established by Zhang Qiao.

The report concluded that the business connections provided by the three men from Dalian could provide “an avenue for North Korean-linked vessels to obtain flags of convenience and other maritime services prohibited under UN Security Council resolutions.”

The full report can be accessed here.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.

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1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    DALAI
    May 27, 2019 at 12:30 pm

    VERY OLD NEWS. PANAMA STILL HAVE SO MANY BLACK LISTED SHIPS FROM IRAN AND NK. DON’T UNDERSTAND PANAMA WHY THEY REGISTER THEM.
    OTHER FLAGS STOPPED TO REGISTER BLACK LISTED SHIPS INCLUDING MONGOLIA. ONLY PANAMA DOING THIS NOW.