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The case of the Wise Honest and Sanctions

North Korea has been the subject of a wide range of UN and US sanctions, and others imposed by South Korea, the EU and Japan for decades. Significant among these sanctions is the ban on exporting coal from N Korea.

The UN capped coal exports from N Korea in 2016 and then banned all coal exports in August the following year. It was also in August 2017 that the MV Wise Honest stopped transmitting on AIS (Automatic Identification System, used by vessels to transmit their position and other information). All vessels over 300GT are required to use AIS.

The Wise Honest is a 17,000-ton, bulk carrier ship registered in the N Korea and has been used, allegedly, to ship coal from N Korea, contrary to UN sanctions. The vessel was detained temporarily by Indonesian authorities last year for acting erratically, for not operating AIS and for various other irregularities. More recently, a couple of weeks ago, the US detained Wise Honest for breaking US law and breaching UN sanctions. If you would like to read about the US case against the Wise Honest then you might follow this link:

https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/1161356/download

It’s a very interesting read.

But my point is not about how or why the Wise Honest was detained.

North Korean vessels have been detained before: the Chong Chon Gang was seized by Panama in 2013, and the Mu Du Bong was detained and ultimately scrapped by Mexico after running aground off the Mexican coast in 2014. Both vessels were accused of arms smuggling. It appears that the seizure of the Wise Honest is the first N Korean vessel to be seized by the US.

Does this mean that the US, and possibly others, are tightening up on the monitoring and enforcement of sanctions worldwide or is specifically related to US/N Korea relations and the recently failed summit?

Whichever it is, it’s a reminder that the penalties for breaching sanctions are severe. The Wise Honest managed to sail across the seas without using AIS for almost 2 years – I suspect that she would be less lucky today. Systems like SiriusInsight.AI do not rely solely on AIS and other advances in technology (AI etc) enable more detailed investigations. This means two things: the authorities have even more tools available in their bid to catch sanction-breakers and, importantly, the same tools can be used by those who want to ensure that their business remains compliant with sanctions.


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The trading pattern of the Wise Honest 2015-2017


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