Project Sandstone

RUSI’s Project Sandstone is a new effort to systematically analyse and expose North Korean illicit shipping networks.




Main Image Credit Project Sandstone


Using open source data-mining and data-fusion techniques to spot activities of interest without reference to classified data, the project aims to provide open-source intelligence and actionable evidence to those engaged in enforcement and the policy community in general.

Main Image Credit Project Sandstone

Project reports


Access the evidence-based project outputs showcasing open source data-mining and data-fusion techniques

Project Sandstone Report 1: The Jie Shun Incident

Project Sandstone Report 2: The Sailors of Panama

Project Sandstone Report 3: On the Trail of the Tae Yang: AIS Spoofing and North Korean Coal Smuggling

Project Sandstone Report 4: Down and Out in Pyongyang and London

Project Sandstone Report 5: Kaohsiung Cowboys: The Taiwanese Network Facilitating North Korea’s Illicit Activities

Project Sandstone Report 6: The Phantom Fleet: North Korea’s Smugglers in Chinese Waters

Project Sandstone Report 7: The Billion-Dollar Border Town: North Korea's Trade Networks in Dandong (Part 1)

Project Sandstone Report 8: Our Man in Malaysia: The Ri Jong Chol Files

Project Sandstone Special Report: Black Gold: Exposing North Korea's Oil Procurement Networks

External publications

NK Pro News & Analysis articles

Amid North Korean food ‘crisis,’ signs of possible humanitarian aid imports
Two inbound shipments of possible humanitarian aid detected in May and June 2021 satellite imagery
Authors: Chad O'Carroll, Joseph Byrne | Date: July 8, 2021

North Korea moves to complete new oil terminal despite UN cap on fuel imports
Rapid construction of three storage tanks and support buildings at Nampho port finished in 2020, satellite images show
Authors: Joseph Byrne, Min Chao Choy | Date: February 2, 2021

North Korean coal smuggling route to China rebounds to pre-COVID activity levels
At least 17 DPRK-linked ships traversed Chinese waters as authorities turn a blind eye to illicit shipping
Authors: Hamish Macdonald,  James Byrne, Joseph Byrne,  Min Chao Choy | Date: July 17, 2020

South Korean firm repeatedly tied to North Korea-linked ship-to-ship transfers
ROK company implicated in encounters with DPRK-flagged and UNSC-designated vessels
Authors: Chad O'Carroll, James Byrne, Joseph Byrne, Min Chao Choy | Date: April 20, 2020

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