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Posted: July 1, 2008

Baltimore delivers 'first lift of aid from the U.S.A.' to North Korea

Members of American Maritime Officers were aboard June 29 when the U.S. merchant vessel Baltimore arrived in North Korea with 37,000 tons of U.S. food aid.

The shipment was the first installment of 500,000 tons in food promised by the U.S. for distribution in North Korea by the World Food Program of the United Nations. Under a cargo preference provision in a 1985 farm support law, up to 75 percent of U.S. food aid donations overseas are reserved for U.S. merchant vessels.

The Baltimore — an integrated tug/barge operated by U.S. Shipping Partners and manned by AMO in all licensed positions — remained off the South Korean coast with its cargo until North Korea provided details of its nuclear program and destroyed the cooling tower at its main reactor. In response, the U.S. cleared the food delivery, lifted some economic sanctions against North Korea and removed the secretive Communist country from the State Department’s list of nations sponsoring terrorism.

"We have been drifting off of South Korea for two days, waiting for North Korea to blow up a nuclear reactor and sign a peace treaty," Baltimore Chief Engineer Jack Mahoney said in e-mail to AMO National Deep-Sea Vice President Joe Gremelsbacker. "Must’ve just happened, because we are finally back on course, arrival Sunday AM."

Mahoney noted that the Baltimore carried "the first lift of aid from the U.S.A." to the secretive Communist country, where hunger and malnutrition are known to be rampant. "CNN is waiting for us," Mahoney added, referring to Cable News Network, which covered the delivery.

The wheat shipment delivered by the Baltimore was enough to permit the World Food Program to expand its North Korean operation to feed as many as 5 million people.

The United States has pledged $38.9 million to the WFP’s North Korean effort.