Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Hong Kong Detains North Korean Ship

Hong Kong has detained a North Korean ship for suspected safety violations just days after the UN Security Council imposed new sanctions on Pyongyang, a local newspaper reported on Tuesday. The 2,035-tonne general cargo ship -- the Kang Nam I -- arrived in the former British colony on Sunday from Shanghai and was due to head for Taiwan with a load of scrap metal on Tuesday, the South China Morning Post reported. It was formally detained on Monday after a Marine Department inspection turned up 25 faults -- including 12 considered detainable under Port State Control regulations -- ranging from faulty navigational, fire fighting and life safety equipment to obsolete nautical charts, the newspaper said. South Korea’s JoongAng Ilbo newspaper quoted a source in Hong Kong as saying Assistant US Secretary of State Christopher Hill, who visited the former British colony at the weekend, passed on intelligence about the ship and asked for it to be searched.
Port of Hong Kong
A diplomatic source in Seoul said on Tuesday: “We are sharing information on the North Korean ship in Hong Kong with related countries, but cannot officially announce anything at this stage.” The Kang Nam I is the ninth North Korean ship to be inspected in Hong Kong this year, the Director of Marine, Roger Tupper, was quoted by the SCMP as saying. Six others had been detained, the last in mid-June. “Hong Kong is a major hub port and North Korean vessels do sometimes visit,” Tupper was quoted as saying. “It is not unreasonable that they are subject to routine Port State Control inspections.” The ship’s Captain, who declined to give his name, said he hadn’t heard about the sanctions or nuclear test, the Post reported. “We normally take cargo from port to port, mostly Southeast Asia,” he was quoted as saying. “Only general cargo. We have no trouble from anyone.” Marine department officials could not be reached for comment, and a government spokeswoman said she had no information about the ship. The UN Security Council voted unanimously on Oct. 14 to impose financial and weapons sanctions on North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s testing of a nuclear device on Oct. 9. Japan, China and Russia have committed to inspecting suspicious cargo from North Korea, but South Korea is more cautious, wary of further destabilising the impoverished Stalinist state. Hong Kong has been governed with a high degree of autonomy since its return to Chinese rule in 1997, although it does not set its own foreign or defence policies.

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