The North Korean port city of Rajin has improved its capacity to handle a second shipment of Russian coals, boosting confidence in the joint coal shipment project involving the two Koreas and Russia, Seoul officials said Monday.
About 140,000 tons of Russian coal is expected to be transferred into South Korea on a ship from Rajin after being moved from Russia's border city of Khasan on a re-connected railway as a second pilot operation for the three-way logistics project. The shipment will be made between April 16 and May 9.
In November, the first shipment carrying 40,500 tons of Russian coal smoothly arrived in South Korea in its pilot operation of the Rajin-Khasan project.
The project came as a symbolic project of three-way cooperation at a time when inter-Korean exchanges have been almost suspended following the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship by the North in 2010.
"Compared with in November, we think that the port's capacity to load or unload the shipment was improved," said an official at the Ministry of Unification, asking not to be named.
"Nothing has been decided, but there may be a third pilot operation for the project," he said. "We expect that talks over a formal contract could come."
The project involves three South Korean firms -- top steelmaker POSCO, shipper Hyundai Merchant Marine Co. and state train operator Korail Corp. They will decide on whether to clinch a formal contract based on the outcome of the pilot operations.
This time the project also includes two power plant operators: Korea East-West Power Co. and Korea Midland Power Corp.
The coal shipment will arrive at three South Korean ports in early May, including the one in Pohang, 374 kilometers southeast of Seoul and a port in Dangjin, 123 kilometers south of the capital.
The Rajin-Khasan project is part of Seoul's move to realize President Park Geun-hye's vision for a united Eurasia.
In October 2013, Park unveiled her Eurasia initiative that calls for infrastructure development and freer trade among Eurasian nations by linking their railways.
South Korea imposed the May 24 punitive sanctions on North Korea in 2010 following Pyongyang's deadly sinking of the Cheonan warship in March of that year.
The move has suspended all trade and exchange programs with the North, apart from a joint factory park project in the North Korean border city of Kaesong. The three-way logistics project has been regarded as an exception. (Yonhap)