After almost three weeks of being detained at the Port of Subic, the Philippine Coast Guard released the North Korean cargo ship M/V Jin Teng and its 21 crewmen last Holy Thursday.
PCG spokesman Commander Armand Balilo said that there was no deliberate intention to set the vessel and its crew free during the Holy Week when almost everyone was preoccupied with vacation and Lenten activities.
Philippines Coast Guard officials inspect North Korean freighter Jin Teng in Subic Bay in this handout photo from the coast guard on March 3, 2016. (Reuters/ PCG handout via Reuters)
Transportation and Communications Undersecretary for Operations Edwin Lopez signed the release order, he added.
The vessel and its crew were detained on March 3 while unloading palm kernel and other agricultural products. Although the inspectors found nothing illegal when it was first checked on March 3, it was held at port following an order from the United Nations.
Inspectors who checked the ship noted that some of the fire hose boxes were empty and not ready for immediate use, a few emergency light bulbs were either busted or not working, the ballast air vent heads at the main deck were corroded and some electrical switches in the sub panel board at the engine room with 440 volts were without insulation materials.
Balilo said the defects have been remedied and the foreign ship was given clearance by the Coast Guard’s Port State Control before they were allowed to leave.
The North Korean ship’s release was in coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
The 4,355 gross ton M/V Jin Teng was flying a Sierra Leone flag registry and was one of 31 vessels owned by North Korean shipping firm Ocean Maritime Management Company (OMM) that was ordered blacklisted by the United Nations on suspicion that it was used in smuggling weapons of mass destruction.
Throughout its stay at the Port of Subic, the Bureau of Immigration did not issue shore passes to the 21 North Korean crewmembers.
The ship’s next port of destination is Shindao, China. (Evelyn Macairan, The Philippine Star)