Huge North Korean ‘ghost’ ship reappears after vanishing off China 5 years ago

A North Korean ship has mysteriously sailed back into sight after 'vanishing' from the ocean five years ago.

The massive 3,800-deadweight ton 'ghost' ship, Dae Bong 1 has bounced back onto radars for the first time since July 2017, suggesting it has been 'sailing dark'.

According to international maritime convention, merchant vessels must broadcast their location on the automatic identification system (AIS) 24/7, something Dae Bong 1 ignored when outside the Chinese city of Caofeidian.

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James Byrne, a researcher at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) who monitors North Korea’s fleet, told NK Pro that the vessel was probably sailing under a falsified AIS profile.

He said: “It’s very likely the Dae Bong 1 has been sailing as usual but simply without transmitting on its IMO registered identity.

“Doing so allows the Chinese authorities to maintain the fiction that vessels engaged in illicit activities are not visiting their waters, while also making those ships more difficult to track.”

AIS data is typically used by international authorities to keep track of where North Korean ships are going which is something the famously secretive state may have acted against.

Yet turning off a ship's AIS transponder for five years is extreme even for Kim Jong-un's fleet.

North Korea got its hands on Dae Bong 1 between 2010-2011, meaning is has spent nearly half of its time with North Korea in radio silence, states maritime database Equasis.

Pnyongyang's Tae Dong Mun previously disappeared for five years before re-emerging at a Chinese coal port earlier this year.

U.S. government agencies regard such extended voyages sailing in the dark as 'red flags', indicating of illicit activity.

North Korean ships were once known to switch off their AIS transponders as a matter of routine before engaging in ship-to-ship transfers with foreign vessels of sanctioned commodities such as coal and oil.

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The lack of AIS data has left maritime governing bodies clueless as to where Dae Bong 1 has spent the past half decade since its final transmission from a wharf in Caofeidian.

The United Nations has linked the area to North Korean coal sales which the nation was banned from interestingly enough in 2017.

Trade appears to have continued despite a U.N sanction on exporting high-grade anthracite coal.

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