The Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose has successfully tracked an illegal fuel transfer at sea while conducting United Nations sanctions enforcement against North Korea. Working alongside Japanese partners, HMS Montrose spotted a North Korean ship in the East China Sea, alongside another ship of unknown nationality.
It is assessed that the ships were carrying out a ship-to-ship transfer of fuel, which is prohibited by United Nations sanctions. The team on board HMS Montrose gathered photographic evidence of the activity and this information has now been reported to the United Nations.
Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Our Royal Navy presence in East Asia over the last year has been a robust deterrent against those trying to evade international sanctions on North Korea. Sanctions evasion helps facilitate North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and is a major source of funding.
Sanctions will remain in place and we and our partners will keep enforcing them until we see concrete steps towards North Korea’s complete, verifiable and irreversible de-nuclearization.
The North Korean-flagged tanker Saebyol, which was transmitting on ship tracking systems as a fishing boat, was spotted alongside a vessel of unknown nationality on the high seas, conducting a prohibited ship-to-ship transfer. The activity was spotted in the early hours of 2 March.
HMS Montrose is the fourth vessel to take part in enforcing sanctions against North Korea since the start of last year, after HMS Sutherland, HMS Albion and HMS Argyll deployed in 2018.
These three ships were a deterrent for those seeking to evade sanctions and continue illicit trading with North Korea, and in May HMS Sutherland observed and reported a Panama-flagged vessel conducting a prohibited ship-to-ship transfer with a North Korean-flagged vessel. This resulted in the Panamanian vessel being designated by the UN, de-flagged and banned from port entry.
The deployment of HMS Montrose to the region to conduct sanctions enforcement was announced during the visit of the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, to the UK, in January.