Sat, Dec 30, 2017 - Page 1 News List

South Korea detains Hong Kong ship over N Korea oil


The Lighthouse Winmore, a Hong Kong-flagged ship, sits in waters off Yeosu, South Korea, yesterday.

Photo: Yonhap / AP

South Korea yesterday said that it was holding a Hong Kong-flagged ship and its crew for allegedly breaching UN sanctions by transferring oil to a North Korean vessel in October.

The Lighthouse Winmore is believed to have transferred about 600 tonnes of refined petroleum products to the North Korean ship, the Sam Jong 2, in international waters in the East China Sea on Oct. 19, after leaving the South Korean port of Yeosu, said a South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

South Korean customs authorities boarded the ship and interviewed crew members after they returned to Yeosu on Nov. 24.

South Korea formally seized the ship after the UN Security Council on Friday last week imposed new sanctions on North Korea that allow UN member states to seize, inspect and freeze vessels that are suspected of transferring banned goods to or from North Korea, the official said.

The ship’s 25 crew members — 23 of them Chinese nationals and two from Myanmar — are being held at Yeosu, but are to be allowed to leave South Korea after authorities have finished investigating them, the official said.

South Korea plans to report the results of its inspection to the UN Security Council’s sanctions committee.

The ship, which also transferred oil to three other non-North Korean ships, was chartered by Taiwan’s Billions Bunker Group (比利恩油品集團) and stopped in South Korea to load up about 14,000 tonnes of Japanese oil products. It claimed its destination was Taiwan when leaving Yeosu on Oct. 15, the official said.

It has not been confirmed whether the Sam Jong 2 returned to North Korea after receiving oil from the Lighthouse Winmore, he said.

The Taiwanese government said Billions Bunker Group is not incorporated in Taiwan, but in the Marshall Islands, and that it would “continue to fully comply” with UN sanctions against North Korea.

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications said it is investigating whether any Taiwanese entities were involved.

Ship-to-ship trade with North Korea at sea is prohibited under UN sanctions adopted on Sept. 11.

Additional reporting by AFP

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