Thursday, May 19, 2005

Abductees Families Protest Return Of North Korean Ferry

Families of abductees staged protests Wednesday as the North Korean cargo ferry Man Gyong Bong-92 docked here Wednesday for the first time since late last year. The five-month hiatus allowed North Korean authorities to get mandatory insurance paperwork in order. On May 11, officials from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport examined the vessel's proof of insurance against oil spills and granted it permission to resume sporadic visits to Japan. About 100 protesters from the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea and others were on hand when the ferry tied up at the quay. ``We are really disappointed and regret that the government allowed the ship to enter,'' said Teruaki Masumoto, spokesman for the group. In March, a revision to the Law on Liability for Oil Pollution Damage took effect, requiring all foreign ships of 100 tons or more to carry protection and indemnity (P&I) insurance to cover costs from oil spills or running aground. The revision was widely seen as a way to ratchet up pressure on Pyongyang to resolve the abduction issue. The North Korean ferry-the only direct link for passengers and cargo between the two countries-last visited in December. In April, Pyongyang signed a contract to insure the ship with a P&I insurer based in Bermuda before applying for permission to the transport ministry in Tokyo for the ship to resume port calls. On its arrival, eight foreign vessel inspectors from the transport ministry's Hokuriku-Shinetsu District Transportation Bureau inspected the ship along with 70 customs and immigration officials. No violations were found. The vessel is scheduled to visit Niigata six times by the end of June..
Greeted by protesters, the North Korean ferry Man Gyong Bong-92 docks at Niigata port Wednesday.

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