Update: Hong Kong detention of DPRK ship

Joong Ang Daily
Choi Hyung-kyu

A North Korean cargo ship detained here last October for safety violations is apparently going to be released within a few days, according to remarks by the ship’s captain.

The seafarer, who refused to give his name, told a reporter Wednesday that he expected to sail his ship, the Kang Nam, back to North Korea in two or three days.

An official at the ship’s agency here, Topping Enterprise, said the payment for repairs required to meet Hong Kong safety standards had been received recently, allowing port officials to release the ship.

Unsaid by either the captain or the agent was that the underlying reason for the ship’s detention in the first place was a search for contraband. The decision to search the ship was in line with recent United Nations sanctions on shipments by North Korea of sensitive military or nuclear-related cargo.

The sanctions also include a ban on trade in luxury goods with North Korea.

Seoul has been urged to join a U.S.-led effort to tighten enforcement of the ban on those types of North Korean international commerce, but has refused for fear of further straining North-South Korea relations.

The ship’s captain refused to say whether his ship had been searched for material prohibited under the terms of the UN sanctions resolution, but was defiant in sending a political message.

“The world is clamping down on us, but we can overcome that. I hope that the two Koreas can reconcile, and let’s hope that in the new year things similar to this will not happen again,” he said.

The ship’s crew had been fed by the vessel’s Hong Kong agents during their enforced stay tied up to a dock in this capitalist mecca, but had refused any other kind of outside help while in port.

The cost of the necessary repairs and port charges for the 70-day stay were estimated at about $40,000.

Hong Kong detains second N. Korean ship in week for safety violations

Hong Kong’s marine inspectors have detained another North Korean cargo ship this week for safety violations, officials said Friday.

The officials from the Hong Kong Customs and Marine Department said the North Korean vessel, Kang Nam 5, has been barred from leaving the port after its inspectors found about a dozen safety violations Thursday. Details of the suspected violations were not available.

The vessel was the second North Korean cargo ship detained in Hong Kong this week after a 2,000-ton freighter, Kang Nam 1, was placed under detention Monday for 25 reported safety violations, including faulty navigational and fire-fighting equipment and outdated nautical charts.

The measures prompted wide speculations whether Hong Kong, or China, was beginning to put pressure on nuclear-armed North Korea as they followed a U.N. Security Council resolution that calls on countries to inspect cargo leaving or arriving in the communist North to prevent transfer of any equipment, material and items related to missile or weapons of mass destruction programs.

The Hong Kong inspectors dismissed such speculations, saying the detentions were the result of their routine inspections.

“The decision to detain the North Korean ship is part of routine procedures based on port safety regulations,” the Hong Kong government said.

Including the Kang Nam 5, seven North Korean vessels have been detained this year, mostly for safety violations, according to the officials. A total of 10 North Korean ships have been inspected this year.

The latest North Korean ship to undergo safety inspections arrived without cargo, according to the officials.


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