A post on Arms Control Wonk on 25th July provides an illustration (literally, given the photos and diagrams provided) of some of the tricks used to export coal and iron. Having collected the coal a ship will either –
- loiter outside a neighbouring port before operators falsify documents to make it appear that it called at the port, and labels the cargo as originating there (e.g. Chinese rather than North Korean); or
- travels to a neighbouring country (usually Russia), offloads the cargo which is collected by a second ship and misdescribed as coming from that port (e.g. of Russian origin).
It provides photos taken from regular satellite surveillance showing ships “happily” loading what is probably coal at Nampo port.
An article from Planet.com tracks, with photos, the travels of the Bai Mei 8, a Chinese bulk vessel carrier, that offers a case study in how North Korea has continued to export coal internationally and how frequent, high-resolution satellite imagery can corroborate evidence and establish patterns of activity that go unreported in open sources.