Ships that assist North Korea will be captured and processed, says PMA

In response to recent statements by the US authorities and resolutions by the UN Security Council relating to North Korea using deceptive practices to sidestep sanctions, the Panama Maritime Authority (PMA) has warned ship owners and operators, captains and crew members that any ship that participates in activities that were prohibited by the UN sanctions regime would be subject to the sanctions allowed by law.

UN Security Council resolutions 2371, 2375 and 2397 on North Korea prohibited the import and export of almost all products to and from North Korea, and Resolution UNSCR 2375 prohibited ship-to-ship transfers (STS) to and from North Korean flag vessels of any cargo that was supplied, sold or transferred to or from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The PMA noted that Panama-flagged vessels were prohibited from loading cargo in North Korea, and were also forbidden to transport cargo to and from North Korea, as well as they were also prohibited from carrying out any STS transfers of any cargo with North Korean vessels. Ships were discouraged from unloading any cargo in North Korea, and could only do so in circumstances approved by the UN.

The PMA requested that each ship owner, ship captain, ship operator and charter agent with interests over Panamanian-flagged vessels, echoed this message to all the interested parties, including the crew on board their vessel.

The PMA warned that North Korean vessels were altering ship identifications information, changing the name of the vessel, altering the IMO number and changing the port of origin. The PMA encouraged owners, operators, captains and crew members of all the vessels registered under the Panamanian flag to apply, under strict measures, due diligence in order to verify the identity of the final beneficiary, the effective control and/or the intended use of any cargo before any transaction.

The PMA said that a ship that shut down its Automatic Identification System (AIS) was a frequent indicator of illicit activity. From the moment any vessel shut down AIS, it should be subject to an immediate and prompt investigation by the PMA.

Owners, operators and captains who, even unknowingly, conducted business that helped North Korea might be subject to sanctions, the PMA said. Any ship owner, operator or captain of a ship that deliberately attempted to evade sanctions and assist North Korea would in turn be subject to sanctions.