Satellite imagery acquired by DigitalGlobe shows the recently renovated wharf at North Korea’s Rajin Port located on the east coast.
In an inaugural ceremony on 18JUL14, North Korea opened Wharf No. 03 for operation, according to a report in the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). The wharf along with the rail service which connects the port with Russia’s Khasan were recently upgraded in a RUB 9 billion (USD 250 million) project executed by Russian Railways logistics subsidiary, RZhD Logistika. KCNA said the wharf “provided another foundation for making a positive contribution to boosting the friendly and cooperative relations between the two countries and economic and trade relations among countries of Europe and Northeast Asia”.The wharf renovation is a part of the Rajin-Khasan Project which has been implemented in several phases since work began in October 2008. According to RZhD Logistika, the statement of work included the reconstruction of railway infrastructure over the 54km stretch, the overhaul of three tunnels, and the construction of a cargo terminal on wharf 03.
Reports in the Moscow Times suggest the main purpose of the project was to relieve congestion at Russia’s Pacific ports whose export of Siberian coal has increased in demand over the years thanks to Russia’s energy hungry neighbor, China.
Russia’s financing of the project through the joint venture RasonKonTrans now enable the port to handle an additional five million tons of freight per year, more than doubling capacity at 4 million tons prior. “The successful reconstruction of the Rajin-Khasan railway section and the completion of Wharf No. 3 of Rajin Port are precious products of the vitality of the Moscow Declaration signed by leader Kim Jong Il and President V. Putin“, said Jon Kil Su, Minister of Railways for North Korea, during the opening ceremony.
Article 6 of the DPRK-Russia Moscow Declaration specifically cite linking the Russian and North Korean rail systems as a common goal as well as promoting connections between both North and South Koreas. Not surprisingly, a group of 38 officials from South Korea’s rail operator Korail, Hyundai Merchant Marine and the POSCO steel making company also visited Rajin City during the opening in order to support a feasibility assessment for joining the project. South Korea’s participation is a part of a recent effort to reduce tensions and create new links between East Asia and Europe, part of President Park Geun-hye’s “Eurasian Initiative”. South Korea and Russia signed an Memorandum of Understanding at the end of last year.
Of course this also supports the national interests of North Korea. Back in 2010, KCNA reported that the country wanted to build four additional wharves to increase storage capacity, support larger vessels as well as additional traffic. These improvements have yet to surface according to satellite imagery though they could become a reality with South Korea’s investment.