Created: 6/1/1968

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cia historical review program release as8


Intelligence Memorandum

Foreign Shipping to North Vietnam After Three Years of Rolling Thunder


This memorandum describes thc chanqes in foreinn shipping to Korhh Vietnoi" since tho initiation of the (tolling Thuiidcr orourom in he "oiiiwe and compositionberth Vletnanese imports and exports by aoa anC in tho role of free i'orld ships in* carry inr; this trade are emphasised. The ye.'ir4 is used as the barcis of comparison, because of rounding, components may not add to the totals shown. All tonnages arc given in metric tons.

CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY Directorate of Intelligence8


Foreign shipping to North Vietnam After Three Years ol Rolling Thunder


Since tho beginning of the Rolling Thunder program inorth Vietnam's seaborne imports have more than doubled, exports have dwindled, and Free World ships have been largely replaced in the trade by Communist ships.

As the war in Vietnam intensified. North Vietnam's dependence on its Communist allies for material assistance increased significantly. Imports by sea roseetric tons4ons During the first four monthsmports wereercent higher than during the same period The largest increase occurred7 when domestic grainhad to be supplemented by heavy imports of rice from China and wheat flour from the USSR. Imports of petroleum and general and miscellaneous cargoes (including steel, machinery, vehicles, soft coal, and chemicals) reached record levels during Deliveries from Communist countries currently account forercent of total import tonnage, compared withercent No imports of arms or ammunition by sea have been detected.

Exports, which made upercent of the tonnage of North Vietnam's seaborne tradeegan droppingell off more6 and

Mote: Thia memorandum vaa produced aolely by CIA. It vaa prepared by the Office of Economic Feeearch and information on ehip arrivala vaa coordinated vith the Naval Intelligence Command.


nd currently account for onlyercent of totalhe decline in exports isalmost entirely to the effects of theprogram.

The combined effects of US diplomatic maneuvers, the lack of export cargoes, and the risks to ships

and crews from the Rolling Thunder program caused many Free World ships to withdraw from the trade. Calls by Free World ships at North Vietnamese ports declinedpercent of total calls4 toercent6 However, Freo World ship calls began to increase8 and now account for aboutercent of total calls.

The number of Free World countries participating in the trade also has been sharply reduced. hips ofree World countries sailed to North Vietnam. 6hips of only five Free World countries remained in the trade. Most of the calls by Free World ships during tho

last two years have been made by British-flag ships based in Hong Kong and owned by firms controlled by Communist China. These ships are engaged for thc most part in carrying cargoes from China to North Vietnam.

As the role of Free World ships in the North Vietnam trade ha? diminished, the role of Communist ships has increased. hinese vessels dominated the Cotnounist shipping, butoviet shipsalls, compared withy Chinese ships. Soviet ships continue to predominate

Since the end of US airstrikes north ofh Parallel, the pace of shipping to North Vietnam*has quickened. The number of foreign ships calling at North Vietnamese ports in May was the highest sincend imports wereecord high level. apanese ship arrived in May, tho first since Turnaround time of ships in the port of Haiphong, which had averagedays in March, dropped toays in April, and toays in May. Extensive dredging of the approaches to the port has been resumedapse of two years. Extension and repair of tho wharves has been continued.

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The increase in shipping activity probably will continue. Imports are expected to continueigh level; as coal processing and handling facilities are restored, exports of coal should increase significantly.

changes in North Vietnam's Seaborne Trade

1. The volumeNorth Vietnam's seaborne trade has changed only slightly It increased slightlyecreased in6nd is on the upswing The composition oftrade, however, has changed drastically* Imports have more than doubled during the period, while exports have dropped to less thanercent of4 level, as shown in the following tabulation;


p.t jj 41 71

Contraction of Exports


iron niitcbllonaou*

2. North Vietnam's exports by sea actually in creased5 as various foreign aid projects began to show results. Exports would have been larger, however, if airstrikes in July had not interdicted theao Cai rail line and rendered further exports of apatite impractical.xports decreased substantially, as shown in the tabulation below, because of the virtual absence of apatite exportseduction in coal exports, both of which were due to the effect of US airstrikefi:

'I. n





in exports7 was duo mostly to the sharp drop in coalwhich resulted from heavy US airstrikes on powerplants and facilities for the transportation processing, and dockside loading of coal. Cement exports also declined as tho result of airstrikes in7 that made North Vietnam's only major cement plant inoperable. Exports of pig iron ceosec

after airstrikes7 on the Thai Nguyenplant.

Expansion of Imports'

4. During the three years of Rolling Thunder, seaborne imports to North Vietnam have more than doubled, increasingercent1 percentndercent Imports during the first four months8 wereercent above the very high level of As shown in the tabulation below, imports from Communist countries increased fromercent of total imports4 toercent of total imports in







Corauniat countries

The sharp increase in imports has resulted largely from increases in foodstuffs, petroleum, and miscellaneous and general cargoes. Imports in each of these categories during the first four months8 were approximately equal to or higher than those for the entires shown in the following tabulation:

J nr.-Apr


Jnr -.







Within the general and miscellaneous category, imports of steel, industrial andequipment, vehicles, bituminous coal, and chemicals have been the most important. The dramatic increase in imports of food7 after two successive years of decreases apparently was in response to poor harvests at the end6 and7 and diversions of labor from agriculture. These imports were mostly wheat flour from the Soviet Far East and rice from China.

Imports of fertilizer have stayedelatively constant levelxcept for an unexplained surge No seaborne imports of arms or ammunition have been detected.

If?increases in imports of petroleum

have occurred despite the thorough bombing of petroleum storage facilities ln

Reversed Roles for Communist and Free World Ships

8. The relative participation of Communist and Free World ships in the North Vietnamese trade has been reversed since the beginning of Rolling Thunder. ree World ships madeercent of the calls by foreign ships at North Vietnamese ports. 5alls by Free World ships fell off sharply because of the effect of US bombing on the availability of export cargoes, crew morale, skyrocketing insurance and wage costs, and US diplomatic efforts to discouragein trade with North Vietnam. At the same time calls by Communist ships rose in order to handle increased imports from the USSR and Communist China. Communist ships steadily increased their dominance in the trade untils shown in the following tabulation:

-L Al Z






Withdrawal of Free World Vessels from thc Trade

9. ne Free World country after another has withdrawn its ships from trade with North Vietnam. Ships flying the flags ofree World countries, led by those of the United Kingdom,rrivals at North Vietnamese ports here were onlyuch calls, and only five Free World flags were represented. The leading Free World participants in the trade during this period are shown in the following tabulation (and in greater detail in the table}:

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10. Ships of five of the countries involved in the North Vietnam trade4est Germany. Swedon, Denmark, Finland, and Indonesiahave not participated in the trade since then. Ships of six other countriesJapan, the Netherlands, Norway, Panama,nd Liberiawithdrew5 and did not call in6 British-flag ships continued to make the most calls, but their number dropped because of the withdrawal5 of all British-flag ships under the effective control of the British government. The British-flag ships remaining in the trade are based in Bong Kong and are owned by Chinese Communist-controlled firms. These ships are engaged almost exclusively in trade between China and North Vietnam. Japanese ships wort.'from the trade after5 because of the reluctance of the Japanese seamen's union to expose its members to possible US bombing. Norwegian ships withdrew after5 because of US diplomatic pressure. Cypriot and Maltese ships entered the trade for the first time5 and continued to participatemall scale6

rench ehiponcommercial call at Haiphong ino pick up bodies of French eoldiere killed in the Indochina War.

* t

11. 6 the only Free World countries whose flags were still appearing in the North Vietnam trade were the United Kingdom, Greece, Italy, Cyprus, and Malta. Greek ships withdrew

North Vietnam: Foreign-Flag Ship Arrivals, bynd8













al Thi* veieil arrived at Worth VUtnam illegally flying the Cypriot flag.

from the trade afterebanese ship called in7 for the first time since ingapore-flag ship called for the first time inapanese ship reappeared in the trade in

w The role of Free World ships in North Vietnamese trade also has-been changed. 45 they carried four times as many exports as imports. 7 they carried almost four tiroes as many imports as exports. Actually the volume of imports carried by Free World ships has remained relatively stable, even though the number of Free World arrivals7 was less than one-fifth that The volume of exports carried by Free World shipsn the other hand, was less than one-tenth of4 level.

Changes in Pattern of Communist Shipping

13. Soviet shipping accounted for almost two-thirds of Communist arrivals during the first four months Thisharp change4 when Soviet ships made up only about one-fourth of Communist arrivals. The share of Chinese ships, which accounted forercent of Communist arrivalsropped to aboutercent7 and Calls by Eastern European ships dropped steadily and7 wore only one-half of4 level. Czechoslovak ships withdrew from the trade after Eastern European ships accounted forercent of Communist arrivals during The changes in Communist shipping to North Vietnam during this period are shown ln the following tabulation:

ratal CswiunUt



Cownlst ChlBi ii

EuiOOC 1*

In addition to the change in volume of Soviet shipping to North Vietnamhere hasreat change in its character. 4 percent of the Soviet dry cargo arrivals came from the Black Sea ports and onlyercent came

from the Soviet Far East, Duringnlyercent of Soviet dry cargo arrivals came from the Black Sea andiled from the Soviet Far East* This.change occurred partlyesult of the closure of the Suez Canal and partly because of the very large increase in Soviet deliveries of bulk foodstuffs7 and The USSR has generally delivered foodstuffs to North Vietnam from ports in the Far East and fertilizer and general cargo from Black Sea ports.

IS. The predominance of Soviet arrivals from the Far East diminishes considerably if measured in terms of gross tonnage. The ships sailing from the Black Sea are much larger than those from the Soviet Far East and despite their relatively small numbers continued to provide more than one-half of the aggregate gross tonnage of Soviet dry cargo ships calling at North Vietnamese ports6

16. The tanker situation is different. Until the end oflmost all of the water-borne shipments of petroleum to North Vietnamin the Black Sea. Since then, most of the petroleum has been delivered from the Soviet Far East, directly or by way of Communist China. Direct deliveries normally are made regularly on small. Soviet tankers and sporadically on larger tankers. Deliveries from China are made in Free World tankers. Occasional shipments have been made from the Black Sea even since the closure of the Suez Canal, but these are dwarfed by the shipments from the Soviet Far East.



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