A New Wharf at Nampho

Commercial satellite imagery shows a new wharf is well under construction at a petrochemical facility in Nampho. The wharf sits alongside four others and is the latest of many efforts to expand capabilities at this facility.

Nampho is North Korea’s largest commercial port and sits near the mouth of the Taedong River, with easy access to shipping lanes that lead to China and Southeast Asia. It is home to the country’s largest POL (petroleum, oil and lubricants) import facility. Several new storage tanks have been added here in recent years despite enduring sanctions limiting the country’s oil and petroleum imports. This sustained expansion suggests North Korea anticipates further growth in its POL imports regardless.

Wharf Construction

Construction of the new wharf began on or around December 22 and has progressed quickly. By December 26, rocks forming the wharf bed extended 165 meters into the river, and it was close to its final length by January 6.

Figure 1. Beginnings of new wharf construction observed on imagery from December 22, 2023. Image © 2024 Planet Labs, PBC cc-by-nc-sa 4.0. For media licensing options, please contact [email protected].

The last satellite image, from January 24, shows the wharf at what is likely its full length of 280 meters. It is comparable to its immediately neighboring wharf, which was constructed between 2020 and 2021.

The precise state of construction is unclear from the image, but work likely remains before the wharf can be put into use. It will likely be paved with concrete to provide a solid foundation for vehicles that drive along it. Additional rock might also be added along its length to prevent erosion.

Figure 2. Progress on new wharf at Nampho on imagery from January 24, 2024. Image © 2024 Planet Labs, PBC cc-by-nc-sa 4.0. For media licensing options, please contact [email protected].

The POL storage area has been under regular expansion over the last eight years.

Several tanks were added in 2021 and 2022. In 2023, another three tanks were added, and bases for more tanks appear to be under construction. In 2016, the area was home to 12 POL storage tanks, and today, it stands at 23 tanks. There are also a handful of additional tanks away from the main storage area.

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