The Panama Maritime Authority, has issued a circular to warn ship owners and operators, captains, and crew members that North Korea is actively evading the sanction measures imposed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) using a variety of deceptive practices.
he Panama Maritime Authority, in order to faithfully fulfill the obligations undertaken by the Republic of Panama in accordance with the principles set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, fully complies with all the Resolutions issued by the said Organization; therefore, any ship that engages in activities prohibited by the UN sanctions regime will be subject to sanctions allowed by law.
UN Security Council resolutions (UNSCRs) 2371, 2375 and 2397 on North Korea, prohibit the import and export of almost all products to and from North Korea, and Resolution UNSCR 2375 prohibits ship-to-ship transfers (STS) to and from North Korean flag vessels of any cargo that is supplied, sold or transferred to or from the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). Panama-flagged vessels are prohibited from loading cargo in North Korea, and are also forbidden to transport cargo to and from North Korea, as well as they are also prohibited from carrying out any STS transfers of any cargo with North Korean vessels.
Ships are discouraged from unloading any cargo in North Korea, and can only do so in circumstances approved by the UN. The Panama Maritime Authority requests that each ship owner, ship captain, ship operator and charter agent with interests over Panamanian-flagged vessels, echoes this message to all the interested parties, including the crew on board their vessel.
Furthermore, the Panama Maritime Authority wishes to warn that North Korean vessels are altering the ship identification information, even painting the place where the North Korean flag goes, the name of the vessel, the IMO number and the port of origin (home port), by modifying the IMO numbers (for instance, changing 3s to 8s), and by engaging in other deceptive practices, such as presenting a false foreign flag. Therefore, the Panama Maritime Authority encourages owners, operators, captains and crew members of all the vessels registered under the Panamanian flag to apply, under strict measures, the 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 Operative Paragraph 6 of the UNSCR Resolution 2371 directs the United Nations Committee 1718 to designate an entry ban to any port in the world to any vessel that as participated in activities that are prohibited by the UNSCR in North Korea. So far, the UN has designated eight vessels for this prohibition, including the ship Billions No. 18, registered in the Panamanian Ship Registry, which carried out a ship-to-ship transfer with a DPRK flagged ship. Any ship that is found to be participating in activities prohibited by the UN, including those registered in Panama may be added to the UN list.
A ship that shuts down its Automatic Identification System (AIS) is a common indicator of illicit activity. From the moment any vessel shuts down the AIS, it be subject to an immediate and prompt investigation by the Panama Maritime Authority. The international community is attentive to this indicative behavior.