Sharp Focus: A Unique View of the Sinpo Shipyard

Key Findings

  • The Sinpo Shipyard is the counterpart to the Sinpo South Shipyard and focuses primarily on the production, maintenance, and repair of small fishing vessels. To a lesser degree, it has also been involved in the production, maintenance, and repair of small Korean Peoples’ Navy combatants.
  • Since about 2009, the graving dock at the shipyard – one of the largest in North Korea – has played a crucial role in maintaining the operational status, repair, maintenance, and scrapping of the nation’s submarine force. 
  • This is the third of several reports providing a unique view of the Sinpo South Shipyard, Sinpo area, and Mayang-do navy facilities using a unique high off-nadir (HON) image collected by Maxar Technologies during April 2021.

As with our recent Sharp Focus high off-nadir (HON) reports of the Sinpo South Shipyard and Mayang-do Submarine Base, the same April 21, 2021 Maxar Technologies image provides a unique look at the Sinpo Shipyard. While a majority of satellite imagery is collected at 0O to 35O off-nadir, the April 21 image was collected at 49.6O off-nadir—placing the Worldview 2 satellite approximately 780 kilometers away over the Yellow Sea. This image presents a view that an individual would have if they were looking at the facility out the window of an airliner showing the sides of buildings and objects and providing a sense of relative height.

A high-off nadir overview of the Sinpo Shipyard, April 21, 2021. Click image to enlarge. 

The Sinpo Shipyard was built during the late 1950s and early 1960s on the site of a small port that was present since at least the 1940s. During the 1960s-1980s, it was expanded and became involved in the low-level production and repair of small combatants for the Korean Peoples’ Navy (KPN) and small fishing vessels. Following the death of Kim Il-sung in 1994 and the subsequent period of repeated drought, famine, and economic collapse (known collectively as the Arduous March), vessel production declined to a halt and the shipyard focused on repair of fishing vessels and a few small KPN combatants. By the late 1990s, activity began to rise slowly, and construction of one of the largest graving docks in North Korea began. During the years that followed, repair and minor civilian construction activity on open ways resumed. By 2009, construction of the graving dock was finished and has since been used for the maintenance, repair, and scrapping of KPN ROMEO class submarines (SS), combatants, and fishing vessels.

Close-up view of the Sinpo Shipyard showing the repair ways and graving dock, April 21, 2021. Click image to enlarge.