Iran-Bound North Korean Ship Detained
A North Korean ship bound for Iran has been detained and inspected in India according to the Mumbai Mirror. Having run into mechanical problems and become disabled, the North Korean freighter apparently drifted into Indian waters where it was boarded and then towed to Bombay docks. The ship, however, was empty when Indian crews reached it.
Some immediate observations:
“What is most suspicious is the fact that though it is a cargo ship, they are not carrying any consignment or goods,” said a Coast Guard officer. The authorities are now examining the freighter to find if any contraband is hidden somewhere.
- The ship likely had its cargo tossed overboard once the ship became disabled. The testing explanation is wholly unrealistic. Cargo ships do not sail empty, certainly not from a cash-strapped North Korea.
- Another possibility is that the North Korean ship was sailing to Bandar Abbas to pick up cargo and serve as a mule to transport Iranian weapons/equipment elsewhere under a non-Iranian flag. But a North Korean flag is no less a magnet for Western suspicion than an Iranian flag.
- Even considering the less likely latter possible scenario, what does this say of the PSI-led inspections of North Korean shipping enabled by the latest UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea?
- There is no mention in any report of a distress signal or call for help from the North Korean ship. It apparently simply drifted into Indian waters in silence. This is an important contributing factor that goes unmentioned.
- Indicating a lack of quality control attributing to the mechanical failure, as well as lack of concern for crew, the Times of Oman reported Indian officials saying that "documents for the new 45-meter vessel were in order, although life-saving equipment was found to be deficient."
North Korea is not in the business of wasting money it does not have, including on its expendable crews. This was certainly not a long-range 'test' as claimed by the crew. Note once more that this was not from the North Korean government, who has apparently maintained ‘radio silence’ on the controversy. This was a money-maker, and the lack of an explanation in over a week’s time is a clear indicator of nefarious dealings between North Korea and Iran.
Also note that this incident occurred originally October 29. If this were simply a test, the 'official' North Korean silence thus far is nothing short of curious.
An Indian official said of the crew, “They don’t understand English at all. But we are trying our best to find out the purpose of their visit to Iran since there is no conspicuous cargo onboard.” Why has North Korea not sent a translator in the week that has passed since the Indian Coast Guard first took control of the ship?
If the Titanic can be found on the ocean’s floor, perhaps a more curious payload now lies on the floor of the Indian Ocean near where this ship broke down. It’s likely a matter of the will to discover it.