Jane VaynmanNorth Korean Ghost Ship

Indian authorities have stopped a North Korean ship headed to Iran. [cue suspense music…]

Except, it was empty! [GASP]

“MV Omrani-II” developed a snag and entered Indian waters on October 29 and was towed to the Mumbai Port where the crew was being questioned by Indian intelligence and customs officials.

“The crew has not been able to explain why they were sailing an empty vessel to Iran,” a senior coast guard official told Reuters on condition of anonymity on Thursday.

However a senior official at the Directorate General of Shipping said: “They have told us that because it is a new ship they were testing it. But it is strange that they should need to sail as far as Iran.”

I have several theories to expain why North Korea would send an empty ship to Iran. Please feel free to add to my list. (Yes, I also found that map from the Mumbai Mirror very helpful in formulating my thoughts.)

  • They are testing how easily they would get caught
  • There are nuclear bombs hidden in the floorboards
  • Missiles don’t work, bombs don’t work, apparently navigation is also bunk.
  • The authorities should go back on the ship to see if there’s a copy of The Hunt for Red October in the captain’s quarters.
  • No, really, they are testing the ship. Time trials to Iran! Winner gets their own military parade.
  • NORKS want to mess with our heads


  1. SQ

    How about, to collect a cargo? Or is that too obvious?

  2. tBaum

    U! J! They’re all rock n roll to them…

  3. James (History)

    How about to try and see how strongly UNSCR 1718 is being enforced?

    It makes a lot more sense to me to send an empty ship rather than one with goods to a suspicious destination in order to test it. Keep in mind that the resolution has been around less than a month, and this may not have been the only vessel they sent out to test the waters. Under such a scenario, one should be asking, which borders and trade routes have not been closed to DPRK after its nuclear test?

  4. Eleutheros

    A diversion?

  5. Andy (History)

    Perhaps the dear leader has eaten his dates and worn out his carpets and needs more.

    Personally, I find it interesting that a North Korea ship carries a Persian name.

  6. Alex (History)

    Yes, “Omrani-II” doesn’t sound North Korean to me, or any kind of Korean.

    My theory: Reuters Mumbai is incompetent, the ship is Iranian, and was built in a Korean shipyard.

  7. Mstafr

    Fill up with Iranian aid, ie heroin?

  8. Andy (History)

    A real possibility not yet mentioned is that the ship might be involved in drug trafficing, which is one of many nefarious ways the regime makes hard currency.

  9. Yishai (History)

    Yes, I think it was going to Iran to pick up a nefarious cargo.

  10. Haninah

    Perhaps a cargo of pure uncut nefariousness. Or maybe it was dropping off the Dear Leader’s belated submission to Mahmoud’s Holocaust cartoon contest.

  11. Crusty

    Somehow, if drugs would be involved, I think it highly unlike that the ship would sail back to North Korea, where the local populace don’t exactly have the money to buy drugs.

    It might even be (suprise, surprise) to pick up a cargo of food for starved NK, but don’t let me interrupt any warmongers fantasies.

  12. Jarhead (History)

    Jane, I am reminded of the Irishman who strolled across the North-South border every morning with packages and the suspicous border guards always searched him top to bottom for smuggled contraband, all to no avail.

    Then at night Clancy cycled back across with packages, and again they’d search. Nothing.

    After two decades, with all involved retired, the border gumshoes asked Clancy: “Ok, we give up, what were ye smuggling??”

    “Bicycles,” said Clancy…

    Maybe the nK is now smuggling ships.

  13. Hoax (History)

    Hmmm….I wonder what resource could be in the Middle East that poor, cold, energy-poor North Korea would be interested in. I wonder what it could be…

  14. jane (History)

    The Irishman story made my day. brilliant. Thanks for the comment.

    I plan find as many occasions as possible to retell it.

  15. Akash (History)

    To get back to topic, somewhat. This is the 2nd North Korean ship stopped by India. The first had Dong series missiles in it, which were examined with some interest by Indian officials. Y’all can google it up- I forget which Dong it was and what components were captured, propulsion units were included if memory serves me correct.

    Ding dong!

  16. James (History)

    Indian Ocean is getting popular for this sort of thing. Now France is getting into the act and citing UNSCR 1718 specifically.


  17. Stephen Young (History)

    Given that it seems the ship broke down and was forced to enter India waters (rather than being intercepted), I’d assume they dumped the cargo (presumably missiles?) over board.