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N. Korea Ship Stuck Off Mexican Coast

  • VOA News

FILE - North Korean-flagged cargo ship Chong Chon Gang sits in Sherman Bay near Colon City, Panama.

FILE - North Korean-flagged cargo ship Chong Chon Gang sits in Sherman Bay near Colon City, Panama.

A North Korean freighter remains lodged on a reef near the port of Tuxpan on Mexico's Gulf coast, a day after it ran aground en route from Havana.

The port's captain was headed to inspect the Mu Du Bong and determine a course of action to get the 6,700-ton vessel afloat again, a source in his office told VOA.

The Mu Du Bong was headed to the small port in the state of Veracruz to pick up a load of fertilizer when it hit a reef roughly 12 kilometers from the port.

There were no immediate reports of injuries, according to local emergency chief Ricardo Maza.

Maza said the captain was disoriented when the accident happened. Environmental officials are determining if the reef has been damaged.

Citing online maritime traffic information, a correspondent for Forbes wrote Sunday that the Mu Du Bong deviated from its traditional routes in East Asia to call on a port in eastern Russia in April, then headed to Cuba via the Panama Canal in late June before falling off the radar for 10 days.

The incident marks the second time in a year a North Korean vessel has encountered problems in the region.

Last July, the crew of the Chong Chon Gang was held in the Panama Canal after authorities found undeclared military supplies, including two Soviet-era MiG-21 aircraft, air defense systems, missiles and command and control vehicles hidden under millions of dollars’ worth of sugar.

Both Havana and Pyongyang said the weapons were obsolete Cuban arms being shipped to North Korea for refurbishment under a legitimate contract and due to be returned to Cuba. But neither country explained why the shipment was hidden.

Panama said in April that a UN team concluded that the cargo violated a UN embargo.

The last three of the crew members to be detained, including the captain, were acquitted in late June and left Panama Saturday en route to Pyongyang, their defense attorney told VOA.

Some information for this report comes from AFP.