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Hong Kong Ship Seized By South Korea Carried Bunker Fuel

The Hong Kong-flagged tanker that South Korea seized on suspicion of having transferred refined oil to North Korea was most probably carrying bunker fuel, industry sources told Platts on Wednesday.

On Friday, South Korean officials announced that the country had impounded a Hong Kong-registered oil tanker suspected of having secretly transferred refined oil to a North Korean vessel, thus violating United Nations sanctions.

The officials said that Hong Kong-flagged oil tanker Lighthouse Winmore had docked at the South Korean port of Yeosu on October 11 to load 14,039 tons of refined petroleum from Japan, according The New York Times. A few days later, the tanker set sail from Yeosu, en route to Taiwan. But instead of reaching Taiwan, the ship transferred refined oil to four other vessels on international waters, including 600 tons of refined oil to North Korean ship Sam Jong 2 on October 19, South Korea’s officials said.

Upon Lighthouse Winmore’s return to the South Korean port at the end of November, authorities boarded the ship and questioned its 25-member crew including 23 Chinese citizens and two Myanmar residents. South Korea officially impounded the oil tanker after the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution on December 22 regarding oil sales to North Korea. In this resolution, the UN requires “Member States to seize, inspect and freeze any vessel in their ports and territorial waters for involvement in prohibited activities.”

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According to industry sources who spoke to Platts, the ship was most probably carrying bunker fuel—either marine gasoil or fuel oil.

Meanwhile, South Korean investigations continue, and a spokesman for the foreign ministry said on Tuesday that oil trading house Trafigura was the owner of the original oil shipment. A spokeswoman for the oil trading giant on Wednesday denied any involvement in any transfer of oil to North Korea.

On Sunday, a South Korean customs official told Reuters that authorities had seized another ship, a Panama-flagged vessel, suspected of having transferred oil products to North Korea in violation of the sanctions.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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