Detained S.Korean ship revealed to have delivered over 4,300 tons of diesel oil to N.Korea

Priscilla Wymn, April 4, 2019, 9:22 a.m.


A South Korean-flagged ship now detained in Busan illegally delivered more than 4,300 tons of diesel oil to North Korea through ship-to-ship transfers in international waters, the government here said Wednesday.

The P-Pioneer transferred a total of 4,320 tons of diesel to North Korean oil tankers -- 1,820 tons to the Kumunsan and 2,500 tons to the Ryuson -- on the East China Sea in September 2017.

The Coast Guard recently referred the 71-year-old captain of the ship to prosecutors for indictment on charges of violating the inter-Korean cooperation laws as well as UN Security Council resolutions.

The ship, built by Fukuoka Shipbuilding in Japan in 2000, belongs to a South Korean shipping company identified by the initial D but was leased to a Philippine company before September 2017.

It evaded monitoring by submitting a false report on port entry and exit to authorities and carried far less diesel than its maximum payload tonnage of 7,849 tons for fear that it would look suspicious on satellite imagery if the hull suddenly rose significantly once it had unloaded its cargo.

The government has detained this ship for the past six months based on a tip-off from U.S. intelligence. "We're discussing with the U.S. and the UNSC how to handle it," a Foreign Ministry official said.

The Philippine ship operator will take most of the blame, but the South Korean firm could also be put on the UN sanctions list depending on the findings of the investigation.

A total of four ships, the P-Pioneer and three foreign-flagged ships, are grounded in South Korea for illegal ship-to-ship transfers to North Korean vessels.

Meanwhile, the oil tanker Lunis, the first South Korean ship to be put last month on the U.S. Treasury Department's list of vessels suspected of carrying out illegal ship-to-ship transfers with the North, entered the port of Yeosu on Wednesday.

Liberty Korea Party lawmaker Yoo Ki-june said, "The Lunis transported 165,400 tons of refined oil products from South Korea on a total of 27 occasions since 2017. It didn't sail to its scheduled destinations but stayed in international waters near China for two weeks at a time."

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