3 Feb 2018 10:30

N. Korea's ManGyongBong ferry makes distress call in Vladivostok due to lack of fuel on board - vessel operator

VLADIVOSTOK. Feb 3 (Interfax) - The captain of the ManGyongBong ferry transporting goods between North Korea's Rajin and Vladivostok has made a distress call due to the lack of fuel on board the vessel on Saturday morning, Vladimir Baranov, the director general of the Russian vessel operator, InvestStroyTrest, told Interfax.

"The vessel arrived with cargo in Vladivostok. I've learned on the approach that the port would not receive the vessel, because goods under sanctions could possibly be on board. The ferry is out of fuel and food for the crew," Baranov said.

The vessel was laid up outside the port, in the Peter the Great Gulf near the Skryplyov Island.

"The captain of the ferry made a distress call at 9:35 a.m. [2:35 a.m. Moscow time] on Saturday. Border guards came on board only after that and are examining the vessel," Baranov said.

The ferry will be refueled in the near future, he said.

"It will be refueled in the harbor, a tanker should approach," Baranov said. A total of 34 crewmembers, all of them North Korean citizens, are on board the ferry, he said.

The ManGyongBong ferry transports transit cargo, animal feed, Baranov said.

"This is Chinese cargo, animal feed. It is for transit shipment via Rajin and Vladivostok to [South Korea's] Busan. Two containers with similar cargo were shipped without any issues in December," he said.

"I believe they should receive the vessel at the port. And then regulatory authorities should deal with cargo," Baranov said.

Interfax has yet to obtain official commentaries from relevant bodies.

As reported, the ManGyongBong ferry line was shut down indefinitely in early September because of disagreements between the operator and Vladivostok Marine Terminal, which leases piers. The ferry was prohibited from dropping anchor there. However, laws prescribe that the ferry moor at the terminal, which has a checkpoint for foreign tourists.

The ferry line reopened in October, but traffic was limited to cargo only.

Cargo is handled at another pier.

InvestStroyTrest, based in Vladivostok, opened a cargo-and-passenger ferry line between North Korea's Rajin and Vladivostok on May 18. Before this, no passenger vessels from North Korea were coming to Russia.

The ferry transported about 350 passengers before traffic was halted.

The ManGyongBong ferry used to visit the Japanese port of Niigata. The visits were banned in 2006 after North Korea conducted nuclear tests.

The ferry can carry 193 tourists and up to 1,500 tonnes of cargo.

The Rajin port is part of the Rason Special Economic Zone.