SEOUL, KOREA - A pilot program to carry coal from the port of Najin in North Korea to Pohang in the south is expected to bear fruit within the year. A high-ranking official at the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said on March 23, "We have finalized a plan to ship coal between Najin and Pohang before the year's end as part of the Eurasia Initiative."
Once the coal shipment from Siberia arrives in Najin through the Hasan train station on the Russian side, South Korean ships will move the cargo to POSCO in Pohang from the No. 3 wharf in Najin.
The ministry official added, "In a visit to Najin in February we found that the port facility is capable of handling coal load up to 4 million tons a year. We will send a due diligence team again within the first half to find out the depth of the water near the port."
The pilot coal shipment program is undertaken as part of the Najin-Hasan railway project. The 54-kilometer railway link is critical to connecting the rail lines in the south to Busan and the trans-Siberian railway to European destination. Earlier in 2000, Russian President Vladimir Putin and then-ruler of North Korea Kim Jong-il agreed to build the line at the cost of US$340 million.
Najin is a port city located at the northernmost corner of North Korea bordering Russia. The Russian government has since 2010 been working on building berths capable of holding 70,000-ton vessels in Najin's No. 3 wharf. The Chinese government is also in talks with North Korean authorities over building container unloading facility as well as expanding the wharves No. 4 to 6. The problem, however, is the Russian side has not found coal mines big enough to supply the volume demanded by Korean companies including POSCO.
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