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