Sinpho South Shipyard: No Signs of Sub Launch or Missile Test Preparations
Recent commercial satellite imagery of North Korea’s Sinpho South Shipyard indicates only a minor level of activity at the main construction hall and secure boat basin while construction continues on the L-shaped pier. Two large barge cranes and small vessels have been positioned at the submarine launch quay near the main construction hall, probably for maintenance purposes. The SINPO-class ballistic missile submarine and submersible test barge remain berthed in the secure boat basin, while smaller vessels occasionally move in and out of the area.
Construction continues at the L-shaped pier at the south end of the peninsula, on the joining seawall and docking, and the associated probable submarine maintenance and storage hall.
Despite North Korea’s recent spat of missile launches, there are no signs of preparations for a submarine-launched ballistic missile test or any indication of when the new submarine, which has been under construction for years, will be launched.
Figure 1. Overview of the Sinpho South Shipyard Area.
Submarine Launch Quay
In imagery from February 23, two barge cranes and two small vessels are visible at the quay leading to the main construction hall. One of the barge cranes has been present since September 18, 2022. The floating barge cranes have often been observed both at the quay and immediately offshore of the quay, the latter suggesting dredging and/or clearing operations took place. The small vessels are likely used for other activities, such as taxiing personnel or maneuvering the barges.
Figure 2. Increased presence of vessels at the submarine launch quay.
Secure Boat Basin
The SINPO-class submarine and submersible test barge remain in their usual berthing positions. No movement of these two vessels has been observed in the imagery viewed since September 2022.
The number and location of support vessels at the secure boat basin change occasionally. For instance, a small support vessel entered the basin between November 8 and December 7 and remains in the same position in imagery from February 23.
Figure 3. Overview of the Secure Boat Basin.
The L-shaped pier will serve as a breakwater and berthing area on its leeward side. Since September 18, 2022, the amount of construction materials around this site has increased as work on the concrete pier, adjacent seawall and quayage continues, albeit at a slow pace. New support buildings have been added along the south side of the probable submarine maintenance and storage hall. It is unclear if these are temporary structures that will be removed as construction nears completion. Buttresses support the north wall of the hall, suggesting the building may eventually be covered with earth, providing a degree of protection from attack. If this hall’s purpose is to house a ballistic missile submarine, a floating drydock would be required for loading and unloading, which would prevent rapid deployment. Additionally, probable concrete tetra pods are presently being stored inside the hall that will likely be used for wave dissipation and erosion control on the windward side of the L-shaped pier.
Figure 4. Construction activity continues at and around the L-shaped pier.