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South Korea launches pilot shipment via N Korea-Russia route

South Korea launches pilot shipment via N Korea-Russia route

SEOUL: South Korean consortiums envisioned program to bring in Russian coal via Rajin, using the newly-renovated 54-kilometer railway between the Rajin port and Russia’s border city of Khasan.

A ship carrying Russian coal will depart from the North Korean port of Rajin toward South Korea in a pilot shipment aimed at gauging the feasibility of a South Korean consortium’s push for a logistics project linking the two Koreas with Russia, official said.

Thirteen officials from the consortium composed of steelmaker POSCO, Hyundai Merchant Marine Co. and Korail Corp. and the South Korean government arrived in Rajin on Monday via Russia to oversee the pilot run, the official from the unification ministry said.

“The inspection team from our side entered North Korea at around 10 a.m. after crossing the North Korea-Russian border as scheduled,” according to the official, who requested anonymity.

Under the pilot project, the ship will leave the Rajin port Friday morning toward the southern South Korean port of Pohang for a 36-hour voyage to transport 4,500 tons of coal from a Russian mine in the West Siberian region.

The whole process of the shipment, including the railway transport of the Russian coal from Khasan and cargo loading, will be monitored by the visiting South Korean officials to determine whether the three-nation logistics project should be further pursued, according to the ministry official.

The project was envisioned during a summit meeting between President Park Geun-hye and her Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in November 2013, with the two sides agreeing to help South Korean firms join the Russia-North Korea deal to reinvigorate transport between their cities.

After conducting two rounds of feasibility tests at Rajin, the South Korean consortium planned to ink the deal within this year, although it seems impossible given the time needed for the relevant process, another unification ministry official has previously said.

If the deal is successfully forged, it will help cut the coal shipping costs of POSCO, which now brings in Russian coal via Vladivostok.

The deal is also expected to help Pyongyang secure a stable supply of cash from overseas.