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North Korea to connect Russian coal to South Korea-bound ships

Major South Korean companies are involved in the logistics project, including the steelmaker POSCO, Hyundai Merchant Marine and national railroad operator KORAIL.

By Elizabeth Shim
North Korea to connect Russian coal to South Korea-bound ships
A Russian train arrives in the North Korean port city of Rajin. Shipments of Russian coal to South Korea previously have been delivered using North Korea as a transfer point in November 2014, and again last April. On Tuesday, the three countries are expected to cooperate on the third trial shipment of a pilot program. File Photo by Yonhap

SEOUL, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- Russian coal is to be transported to South Korea as part of a three-way logistics project that takes a detour at a rarely visited transfer point: the North Korean port city of Rajin.

Shipments of Russian coal to South Korea previously have been delivered using the circuitous route in November 2014, and last April. On Tuesday, the three countries are expected to cooperate on the third and final trial shipment of a pilot program, and based on the results, South Korea is to decide whether or not to pursue the connectivity project, Newsis reported.

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Major South Korean companies are involved in the logistics project, including the steelmaker POSCO, Hyundai Merchant Marine and national railroad operator KORAIL. Company officers are to travel to Rajin, North Korea from Nov. 17-20 to inspect the container ships, their berthing capacity and to check the conditions of North Korean railways and roads since August, when floods devastated the region.

Yonhap reported the team of 20 South Korean officers had left Vladivostok by train, and was expected to cross the Russia-North Korea border early Tuesday.

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The team is expected to stay in North Korea until container ships carrying 120,000 tons of bituminous coal and bottled water from China leave the docks for the South Korean port city of Busan. Two 45,000-ton bulk carriers would be used to make the trip three times from Rajin to Busan, and an 11,000-ton container ship carrying 10 containers would also be part of the trial.

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In the first trial shipment in 2014, 45,000 tons of coal were shipped to South Korea, and another 140,000 tons were shipped in the second trial.

Based on the results of the third trial, company officers at POSCO, Hyundai and KORAIL are to decide whether or not to pursue the connectivity project that involves the Hasan-Rajin railway that runs from Russia to North Korea.

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The three-way logistics project also could provide a model for future economic cooperation for North Korea, which has so far been heavily reliant on China for trade.

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