South Korean authorities seize a vessel at Pyeongtaek-Dangjin port on suspicion of transferring oil products to North Korea, customs official says.

In this November 12, 2017 photo provided by South Korea Defence Ministry, three US aircraft carriers USS Nimitz (left top), USS Ronald Reagan (left centre), and USS Theodore Roosevelt (left bottom), participate with other US and South Korean navy ships during the joint naval exercises between the US and South Korea in waters off South Korea's eastern coast in South Korea.
In this November 12, 2017 photo provided by South Korea Defence Ministry, three US aircraft carriers USS Nimitz (left top), USS Ronald Reagan (left centre), and USS Theodore Roosevelt (left bottom), participate with other US and South Korean navy ships during the joint naval exercises between the US and South Korea in waters off South Korea's eastern coast in South Korea. (AP)

South Korean authorities have seized a Panama-flagged vessel suspected of transferring oil products to North Korea in violation of international sanctions, a customs official said on Sunday.

The seizure was the second to be revealed by South Korea within a few days, as the UN steps up efforts to squeeze essential oil supplies to the reclusive North following its nuclear or ballistic missile tests.

The ship, KOTI, was seized at Pyeongtaek-Dangjin port, the official said, without elaborating, due to the sensitivity of the issue. The port is on the west coast, south of Incheon.

A marine official also confirmed the seizure, which he said was done "recently".

The KOTI's estimated time of arrival at the port was December 19, according to VesselFinder Ltd, a tracking service provider.

The ship can carry 5,100 tonnes of oil and has a crew mostly from China and Myanmar, Yonhap News Agency reported. South Korea's intelligence and customs officials are conducting a joint probe into the vessel, the agency said.

A foreign ministry spokesman confirmed the probe, declining to provide details.

"The government has been in close consultations with related countries and ministries to thoroughly implement the sanctions by the UN Security Council," the spokesman said.

On Friday, South Korea said that in late November it seized the Hong Kong-flagged Lighthouse Winmore, which is suspected of transferring as much as 600 tonnes of oil to the North Korea-flagged Sam Jong 2.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley votes in favour of a resolution, December 22, 2017, at UN headquarters. The Security Council is voting on proposed new sanctions against North Korea including lower limits on its refined oil imports, the return home of all North Koreans working overseas within 12 months, and a crackdown on the country's shipping.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley votes in favour of a resolution, December 22, 2017, at UN headquarters. The Security Council is voting on proposed new sanctions against North Korea including lower limits on its refined oil imports, the return home of all North Koreans working overseas within 12 months, and a crackdown on the country's shipping. (AP)

Efforts to blacklist

The UN Security Council last month unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea over a recent intercontinental ballistic missile test, seeking to limit its access to refined petroleum products and crude oil.

The United States has also proposed that the UN Security Council blacklist 10 ships for transporting banned items from North Korea, according to documents seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

The Lighthouse Winmore is one of the 10 ships proposed to be blacklisted. The KOTI does not seem to be included on the list.

On Thursday, China blocked a US effort at the UN to blacklist six foreign-flagged ships, a UN Security Council diplomat said.

China also denied reports it had been illicitly selling oil products to North Korea in defiance of UN sanctions after South Korea caught Hong Kong-flagged Lighthouse Winmore.

Russian tankers have supplied fuel to North Korea on at least three occasions in recent months by transferring cargoes at sea, breaching UN sanctions, sources told Reuters. 

Source: Reuters