Executive Briefings

Small Chinese Shippers From Troubled Ports Seen Aiding North Korea Trade

Some of the Chinese ships U.S. authorities allege have helped North Korea evade trade sanctions sailed from ports like this, in Linhai, China, a depressed shipbuilding town.

Just a few years ago, locals in this eastern China town say, it was popular for residents to pool money and buy ships as they scrambled for a piece of an export boom driven by the region’s factories.

Today, Linhai’s muddy riverbanks are dotted with cargo vessels abandoned in mid-construction, evidence of financial stress among Chinese shipowners who expanded tonnage 2.5 times in the decade to 2016.

The Kai Xiang, a bulk carrier with three cranes and an orange hull, launched from a Linhai shipyard in 2012, owned by six locals. One of the six, Cui Shiwei, said the ship proved nearly impossible to monetize amid slack global trade, and dragged the owners into debt.

“Running this business shattered my family,” said Cui. Business records show he transferred his stake to another partner in 2016.

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Just a few years ago, locals in this eastern China town say, it was popular for residents to pool money and buy ships as they scrambled for a piece of an export boom driven by the region’s factories.

Today, Linhai’s muddy riverbanks are dotted with cargo vessels abandoned in mid-construction, evidence of financial stress among Chinese shipowners who expanded tonnage 2.5 times in the decade to 2016.

The Kai Xiang, a bulk carrier with three cranes and an orange hull, launched from a Linhai shipyard in 2012, owned by six locals. One of the six, Cui Shiwei, said the ship proved nearly impossible to monetize amid slack global trade, and dragged the owners into debt.

“Running this business shattered my family,” said Cui. Business records show he transferred his stake to another partner in 2016.

Read full article