N. Korean ship stopped briefly off Pe­nang shores

New Straits Times - - News -

KUALA LUMPUR: A North Korean ship car­ry­ing coal was briefly pre­vented from en­ter­ing Pe­nang port be­cause of a sus­pected breach of the United Na­tions sanc­tions.

Reuters, quot­ing a port worker and Malaysian mar­itime of­fi­cials, re­ported that the Kum Ya was car­ry­ing 6,300 met­ric tonnes of an­thracite coal.

It was later al­lowed to dock, where an in­spec­tion team, ac­com­pa­nied by an armed es­cort, boarded the ship.

A De­cem­ber 2016 UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion placed a cap on ex­ports of North Korean coal, and urged mem­ber states to ap­ply ex­tra scru­tiny on North Korean ships.

Pro­duc­tion of coal in North Korea is state-con­trolled and its ex­ports are a key source of hard cur­rency for the iso­lated coun­try’s banned nu­clear and bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­grammes.

Re­la­tions be­tween North Korea and Malaysia soured fol­low­ing the as­sas­si­na­tion of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s half­brother at the Kuala Lumpur In­ter­na­tional Air­port on Feb 13.

The North Korean ship had been ini­tially pre­vented from en­ter­ing Pe­nang Port due to a pos­si­ble breach of UN sanc­tions, Malaysian Mar­itime En­force­ment Agency (MMEA) deputy di­rec­tor-gen­eral of op­er­a­tions Datuk Zulk­i­fli Abu Bakar said with­out of­fer­ing fur­ther de­tails.

It was un­clear what the in­spec­tors were check­ing on.

Malaysia is one of the few coun­tries in the world which buy North Korean coal, with China be­ing the big­gest im­porter.

Kum Ya was re­cently re-flagged as a North Korean ship, chang­ing its name from Lucky Star 7 in Novem­ber last year, ac­cord­ing to the Equa­sis ship­ping data­base.

It was reg­is­tered on Feb 13 to North Korean ship­ping com­pany Son­chong­gang Water Trans­port, ac­cord­ing to copies of the ship’s reg­is­tra­tion doc­u­ments, which were is­sued by North Korea’s Mar­itime Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The ship was car­ry­ing 20 crew mem­bers, and was sched­uled to sail on to Sin­ga­pore, the port worker said.

The ship listed its port of ori­gin as Bu­san, South Korea. How­ever, ship­ping data in Thom­son Reuters Eikon shows the cargo was loaded at the Hua­neng Shan­dong Wei­hai Power Sta­tion, a coal-fired power plant.

It then sailed to Pe­nang, the data shows.

China halted all coal im­ports from North Korea start­ing on Feb 26, amid grow­ing ten­sions on the Korean Penin­sula fol­low­ing one of a se­ries of Py­ongyang’s mis­sile tests.

Malaysia’s For­eign Min­istry told of­fi­cials at Pe­nang Port not to let the ship dock be­fore an in­spec­tion team had it “de­clared safe”, the port worker said.

Kum Ya was first stopped at sea be­fore be­ing al­lowed to dock at the port, where it was im­me­di­ately cor­doned off, the port worker said.

“Min­er­als and Geo­science De­part­ment of­fi­cials were then called to in­spect the cargo. The de­part­ment of­fi­cers were told to con­firm it was in­deed coal on board,” the port worker said. Reuters

REUTERS PIC

An Eikon ship-track­ing screen shows the po­si­tion of the North Korean ship ‘Kum Ya’ off Pe­nang yes­ter­day.

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