South Korea: The Complexity of Enforcement Against Illicit Ship-to-Ship Transfers

Some South Korean companies have allegedly been involved in illegal ship-to-ship transfers with North Korea. Experts say South Korea may not take active enforcement regarding the problem, as there are other policy priorities to be dealt with first. However, there are serious implications and cost involved for this approach. By Sunny Um, South Korea correspondent, Maritime Fairtrade

In early December 2020, Chinese authorities inspected an anonymous vessel with a South Korean flag for an unannounced reason. The vessel, a 9,000-ton ship with around 20 people on board, was seized in waters near Macao.

There are speculations that Chinese authorities inspected the ship for carrying refined oil products taken from an illegal ship-to-ship transfer with North Korea. The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied this, saying that China did not raise allegations against the vessel for breaching the international sanctions.

This is not the first time that a South Korean ship was investigated for an illicit ship-to-ship transfer with North Korea, but Seoul admitted none. Experts say the cost that South Korea will have to pay for the involvement of ship-to-ship transfer with North Korean ships is big.

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