A North Korean cargo ship seized by U.S. authorities in May has been sold and is now undertow from American Samoa, the Coast Guard announced The 17,061-ton, single-hull bulk carrier M/V Wise Honest was sold on orders of a U.S. federal judge to compensate the families of victims of the North Korean regime – Otto Warmbier and Kim Dong-shik.
Warmbier was the American student who was arrested by North Korean authorities for attempting to steal a propaganda poster on a trip in 2016 and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. He was returned to the U.S. in a vegetative state with severe brain damage and died shortly after. Kim, a Christian missionary, was abducted by North Korean agents in China in 2000 and taken across the border where he was believed to have died.
Courts in the U.S. have awarded judgments against North Korea in both cases and the Southern District of New York Federal Court had the ship sold at auction.
Wise Honest was seized by U.S. officials for violating international sanctions and held at the port of Pago Pago, American Samoa.
The Department of Justice “uncovered North Korea’s scheme to export tons of high-grade coal to foreign buyers by concealing the origin of their ship, the Wise Honest. This scheme not only allowed North Korea to evade sanctions, but the Wise Honest was also used to import heavy machinery to North Korea, helping expand North Korea’s capabilities and continuing the cycle of sanctions evasion,” the DoJ said in a statement at the time.
Since it was seized, the Coast Guard has been responsible for the ship.
“At various times over the five months, the Coast Guard conducted safety and security patrols in and around the ship with teams from Maritime Safety and Security Team Honolulu, Sector Honolulu, USCGC Joseph Gerczak (WPC-1126), USCGC Walnut (WLB-205), and the Marine Safety Detachment in American Samoa,” read a statement from the service.
Given the age and condition of the ship, it’s likely it was sold for scrap.
The following is the complete Oct. 8, 2019 statement from the Coast Guard.
Motor vessel connected to U.S. sanctions violations departs American Samoa
HONOLULU — Following a five-month stay in the port of Pago Pago, American Samoa, the 580-foot motor vessel Wise Honest, a 17,061-ton, single-hull bulk carrier ship connected to U.S. sanctions violations departed under tow Monday.
This action comes after an investigation by the Department of Justice and the sale of the ship in a Southern District of New York Federal Court-directed auction. The Coast Guard’s role in these proceedings was to ensure the safety and security of the Port of Pago Pago and the vessel.
Most recently, the Coast Guard captain of the port received, reviewed, and approved the submitted tow plan from the company who purchased the ship, and the tug arrived in Pago Pago Friday.
“We are grateful to our partners in American Samoa and the Department of Justice who led this operation,” said Capt. Arex Avanni, commander, Coast Guard Sector Honolulu, and captain of the port. “We are pleased this event concluded without incident and to have supported the effort by ensuring the safety of the strategic deepwater port of Pago Pago and the security of the vessel while in U.S. custody.”
The captain of the port, in conjunction with interagency partners and port authorities, made appropriate preparations for the arrival and sustainment of the vessel in Pago Pago. At various times over the five months, the Coast Guard conducted safety and security patrols in and around the ship with teams from Maritime Safety and Security Team Honolulu, Sector Honolulu, USCGC Joseph Gerczak (WPC 1126), USCGC Walnut (WLB 205), and the Marine Safety Detachment in American Samoa.
“We are deeply committed to working closely with our partners and allies to advance maritime governance as part of the rules-based international order essential to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Avanni. “Safe flow of maritime commerce in and out of the Port of Pago Pago is a priority of the U.S. Coast Guard.”
The Department of Justice remains the lead agency in this event. Direct any further inquiries to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York or Main Justice.