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Report - Impounded North Korean Freighter

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28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Angel has been ragging my ass about not putting up any reports so... The MV Pong Su was the North Korean drug smuggling ship impounded by the Australian government.

In April 2003 the Australian Special Forces intercepted the MV Pong Su, a 350foot 3700 tonne freighter belonging to North Korea. It was captured after a 4 day chase and brought to Sydney where she was moved around amidst tight security. On board had been found over a hundred kilos of pure heroin. The North Korean government desperate for foreign currency had resorted to selling smack. How fucked up is that?. Anyway, I had salivated over the prospect of getting on board her for a look.

It was now or never, I thought as I donned white coveralls (the traditional uniform of engineering officers and contractors alike), tasteful patches of oil and grime gave me that extra bit of authenticity. I grabbed my camera bag and tripod and headed over to the wharf where this rara avis was moored. I had no idea how I was going to get on board, especially given the nature of the vessel and its history, but I figured any police investigation would be long over by now, so I shouldn’t have too much trouble. I’d just strut on board and see what happens. Arse nearly always beats class. I walked slowly along the dock under the seemingly curious gaze of the civilian contractors employed to strip and clean out the ship. I pretended to talk on my cell phone as I walked confidently up the gangway.

“Yeah I know tell me about it. Yeah I wish! I am heading up the gangway now.” I said to the phone. I could feel the gaze of the burly looking dock worker who eyed me suspiciously as he moved forward to challenge me. Once on deck, I held up my finger to tell him to wait and turned away. “Yeah I’ll start forward and then work my way aft. I should be finished by-hey mate what time you make it?”

He checked his watch, “About 2:50”, he said.

“Yeah I’ll be back in the office by five” I said to my imaginary colleague and slapped my Nokia closed before pocketing it. To the guy watching me I said “Nice day eh. Shame we can’t spend it at the races.”

He seemed to be more at ease now and he called out “Hey XXXX, the company man’s here to take photos.”

Hmmm now that was an unexpected development I thought to myself. Let's just play this one out and see where this takes us. Then he said “You got gloves? No? Here you’ll be wanting these then,” handing me a pair from a box! “Place's a fuckin’ pigsty”. His emphasis on the word ‘fuckin’ and the noxious odors of rotting garbage and the stink of the tankers pumping out the bilge and waste tanks over the last few weeks meant I did not need my extensively trained imagination to envision the conditions on board. The Pong Su was well pongy.

By this time XXXX had sauntered up and asked me where I wanted to start. I asked if there was any place where it was not safe and he responded that most of the ship was pretty ok by now, but there were still workmen in the hold and I could not go down there until they were finished in about half an hour’s time. “You ok on your own or do you want someone to come with you?” he asked.

Company was the last thing I wanted so I told him “Nah mate. I’ll be ok” and that I would start forward and work my way aft then head down into the engineering spaces. He seemed happy with this and said if I need anything I could find him down there, "or wandering around keeping an eye on the young blokes", being a lazy bludger from way back I gave him a knowing smile and a nod. This was going to be a breeze I thought to myself as I started unpacking my camera.

Looking aft


Looking forward, this time from the bridge


Looking aft

After taking pics of the deck area I headed up to the bridge but almost everything was gone. I was too late the young blokes had done their job well- XXXX's watchful eye had paid dividends.


Most of the interior of the ship (pretty much everything except the bulkheads and deck plates) was festering in the skips and quarantine containers on the dock or already incinerated.

The thing about freighters is that there really is not much to them. Generally all they are is a big floating suitcase with enough space for a crew and propulsion system. The crew spaces can consist of individual cabins for the captain and senior staff and a mess/lounge for them to relax in and shared accommodation and mess facilities for the minions.


Toilet and shower


Senior officers cabins


The galley


Crew mess

There is also storage space for equipment, food, tools, small workshops, a sick bay etc. But most of the ship is the hold.

The hold

The engineering spaces are usually some of the coolest places on a ship. Lots of interesting machinery, pumps and pipes, diesel generators, wheels and knobs, levers and twisty turny things, zinc chromate, asbestos, toxic hazards...yum!

Walkway with ladder down into engine room on left


Looking down from walkway three decks into engine room

I found a ladder leading down to the engine room aft of the bridge. The engine room was in pretty good nick actually and I met up with XXXX again, emboldened by my success so far and although dreading being asked any questions myself, I asked him how it was all going and he said that they had finished a lot of the work. Actually the machinery looked in pretty good condition. Not the same standard as a Navy ship, but still. There was a lot of oil and gunk on the deck plates, but that's not unusual. It was certainly grimier than some ships I had seen, but overall quite ok and I said so. This was confirmed by XXXX when I asked him about the state of the ship. "The engines and machinery spaces are in good condition. They looked after them." he said. "We had to add those though" he motioned towards the silver ventilation pipes snaking down from where I had just come from. The rest of the ship was a bit rougher. He said they had taken a lot of big skips worth of rubbish and material out already and the quarantine people had taken a lot of dangerous "shit" away in sealed containers to be incinerated.

The engine room





More engine room pics

"Found camel meat in the freezers! Can you believe that? Who the hell would eat camel?" he exclaimed. I agreed with his outrage, those big eyes and lips just make me melt too... "The ship has been pretty much sealed and unventilated since its capture and the Feds finished with it. Then we got the go ahead to clean her up for sinking. You can't imagine the stink. They didn't know what to do with it so it's been sitting around at Chowder Bay, moored at the dolphins". He went on to tell me that someone had found the crew's passports hidden by the political officer so they couldn't jump ship. They had also found US$400. I wondered why the customs officers and federal police had not found that. No more drugs though. I started snapping away, but in the confined space and with workmen around I couldn't set up my tripod so just had to make do. All the guys made sure to stay out of the photos and out of my way as best they could, but one young bloke in particular liked the idea. I didn't mind, but obviously his boss did. "What the fuck do you think you are? A playboy bunny? Hows about we get you a bikini? Get out of the man's shots son". I felt bad for the poor kid; I know what it's like to be a camera whore. I was also kinda feeling like a VIP. These guys were great and couldn't do enough for me. I was just bursting to ask them who they thought I was...

All good things must come to an end and it was time to go. XXXX said he was a bit of a photographer himself and would be really interested to see my photos. "I bet you would", I thought but, "Sure but let's see how they come out first", I said. The end didn't come for the Pong Su though; she had a little while yet. But finally on March 23, 2006 she was towed out to sea and in a spectacular demonstration that the Australian government doesn't take drug trafficking by foreign governments lightly, an F111 put two 2000lb laser guided bombs into her, sending her to the bottom.

Farewell MV Pong Su, we barely knew ya.

I would like to thank the 'Dear Leader' Kim Jong Il himself, Chairman of the National Defense Commission, Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army, and General Secretary of the Workers' Party of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea for giving me the opportunity to explore his ship. Thanks also to the Air Force for the spectacular show and Raytheon for the 2000lb bundles of fun. Most of all a big big cheerio and thank you to XXXX.

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28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Very good mate just goes to show if you brass neck it you can gain entry to anywhere well done:thumb


Sore Knee
Regular User
ive noticed this trick as well. If you slowly amble around pretending to be on a difficult phone conversation no one seems to bother you...even if you pretend to 'fidget' with the fence or something whilst talking

Bikin Glynn

28DL Regular User
Regular User
Thats great top marks for keeping your cool throughout that one, cant believe u got away with that!


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Thanks guys. Nice it’s still available after all these years. Good job maintaining the site OT!

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