The Philippines has released a North Korean freighter it seized nearly a month ago after no contraband was found onboard and the ship was cleared by the United Nations, officials say.
The M/V Jin Teng, a 6,830-deadweight-tonne cargo ship with its 21 North Korean crew, left on Thursday afternoon (local time) for China after clearing immigration, customs, quarantine and port authorities, coastguard spokesman Commander Armand Balilo said.
No team from the United Nations came to inspect the ship but local authorities did not find any contraband onboard except some broken aids to navigation equipment, the coastguard said.
“There is no more basis to continue to hold M/V Jin Teng after [the] UN Security Council delisted it from the annex of UNSC Resolution 2270,” foreign ministry spokesman Charles Jose said.
Tough new UN sanctions, passed in March to punish North Korea after its fourth nuclear test in January, blacklisted 31 ships owned by North Korean shipping firm Ocean Maritime Management Company (OMM).
The sanctions aim to starve North Korea of money for its nuclear weapons program.
But the UN Security Council agreed earlier this week to China’s request to remove sanctions on four ships blacklisted for ties to Pyongyang’s arms trade.
China said the ships were not OMM ships and secured a commitment that the ships would no longer use North Korean crews.
The four ships included the Jin Teng, detained by the Philippines days after the sanctions took effect.
The Jin Teng arrived in the Philippines on February 27 flying a Sierra Leone flag.
It was unloading palm kernels when it was seized.