Misadventures in the Gulf of Aden

December 15, 2012 7:30 AM

As we observed in an earlier post, the decrepit state of the North Korean commercial fleet appears to be posing problems for sanctions-busting. Last year it was hoped that the dramatic rescue of a North Korean ship and crew by the South Korean anti-piracy unit off the Somali coast would pave the way toward improved bilateral relations. But it was not to be, and North Korean sailors in rustbuckets continue to ply Middle Eastern waters.

In July, authorities in Oman responded to an SOS call from the MV Daesan which was taking in water and in peril of sinking.  The heart-warming story of the rescue, depicted in the photo above, turned sour last month however, when the Daesan was seized by the quasi-government of Puntland, pirate central on the Somali coast, after the ship allegedly dumped its cargo of cement into Somali? Puntland? waters. The local authorities “condemned the dumping as "illegal" and "environmentally destructive" and pledged to indict the crew “soon.”  The incident plays directly into the pirate narrative in which they are not pirates, but rather a sort of Coast Guard, protecting Somali interests from foreign depredations.

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Update. A dozen Somali-Puntland soldiers guarding the Daesan decided to hijack the vessel and its 33 crew. It is now at sea, destination unknown. (Reuters)

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Marcus Noland Senior Research Staff

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