• Kyodo

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The Niigata Prefectural Assembly on Friday gave the governor the authority to refuse entry to poorly equipped ships in light of increasing problems involving North Korean vessels.

The revision to an existing ordinance is set to take effect by the end of this month. It allows the governor to deny docking rights to ships failing to meet international standards of equipment and certification or that lack the ability to pay compensation in the event of accidents.

The governor can ban such vessels from using docks and other facilities at the prefecture’s ports and harbors.

Based on the revision, the prefecture would be able to deny entry to the Mangyongbong-92 if the cargo-passenger ship is found to lack the necessary equipment. The North Korean ferry is suspected of being used for espionage and illicit trade.

Ibaraki and Shimane prefectures have already made similar revisions to their ordinances on port and harbor management, while Toyama Prefecture has expressed its intention to follow suit.

Earlier this week, the Japanese agent of the Mangyongbong-92 canceled the ship’s scheduled port call to Niigata for the fourth consecutive time since early June, saying it could not reach its contacts in North Korea.

The first scheduled port call to be scrapped was for June 9, following news that Japan would ban the vessel from carrying passengers if it is found to lack proper safety equipment, such as lifeboats.

The Mangyongbong-92 sails on an irregular schedule between Wonsan in North Korea and Niigata. It was scheduled to enter Niigata port 10 times between June 9 and Sept. 30. It last docked in Japan in mid-January.

Japanese public security authorities suspect the ship has been used for espionage, to smuggle goods for military use, and to carry unauthorized remittances of cash.