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North Korea Commissions First Domestically Built Cargo Ship in 5 Years

North Korea commissions domestically built cargo ship
North Korea's new cargo ship departs (state media photo)

Published Dec 28, 2021 12:21 PM by The Maritime Executive

North Korean state media is hailing the commissioning of a new, domestically built cargo ship. By all indications, it may be the largest commercial vessel registered in North Korea and is also the first new commercial ship the regime has highlighted in five years.

Details on the vessel are scarce other than the media reports saying the Jang Su San is 12,000 tons. No dimensions or capacity were announced for the vessel. Analysts are comparing the vessel to the Ja Ryok that North Korea commissioned in 2016. That vessel is listed in the international registers at 5,400 dwt with dimensions of 325 in length and a 52-foot beam. The Ja Ryok was internationally registered with an IMO number. The western news outlet NK News however reports that the new vessel is currently lacking an IMO number and entry into the registry.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency reported the commissioning ceremony took place on December 23 and the vessel departed shortly thereafter although it may have been a ceremonial departure. During the ceremony with all the usual flourish and pageantry common in North Korea, high-ranking party officials hailed the patriotic achievement.

The vessel was built at the Ryongnam Shipyard located near the port of Nampho on the west coast of North Korea. Officials read a letter from the Central Committee that highlighted that the ship was built at a repair yard without the equipment of a shipbuilder. North Korea describes the Ryongnam facility as a large-scale repair yard able to handle ships up to 10,000 tons. The Ja Ryok was built at the same yard five years ago.

North Korea has a small, aging commercial fleet hampered by UN sanctions. The country is officially barred from building new vessels or buying vessels from the west. The largest vessel registered in North Korea had been the Wise Honest, a 27,880 dwt cargo ship. The United States, however, was successful in seizing the vessel for sanction violations, and in 2019 the Wise Honest was sold for scrap.