After two weeks of impenetrable legal limbo, there was some good news for owners of cargo stuck in the bowels of container ships belonging to the recently bankrupt South Korean shipping giant, Hanjin Shipping. As Bloomberg reported according to the insolvent shipper, at least some vessels are in line to unload cargo at Long Beach port in California after a U.S. court Friday granted bankruptcy protection, easing a gridlock that disrupted delivery of goods.
Three more Hanjin ships are waiting at the port to clear their freight once Hanjin Greece, which is currently offloading, clears early Sept. 12 local time, Hanjin said in response to a query. Truck drivers probably will begin moving containers from the Greece on Monday while the vessel prepares to leave late in the day for the Port of Oakland, said Teamsters spokeswoman Barbara Maynard and shipping traffic controllers, cited by Reuters. Port workers began taking Hanjin Greece’s cargo ashore at 8 a.m. local time Sunday, and the Hanjin Gdynia will follow, Noel Hacegaba, chief commercial officer of the Port of Long Beach, said in a telephone interview Sunday.
However, the Greece, and its two peer ships, carry only a fraction of the $14 billion in goods on dozens of ships owned or leased by the world’s seventh-largest container carrier. Worse, while some of Hanjin’s ships would be free to offload their cargo once they obtain the needed funding, the fate of many other ships is unknown. Charter owner Seaspan has three ships under charter with Hanjin – the Hanjin Buddha, Hanjin Namu and Hanjin Tabul – which are all due to hit the U.S. West Coast within the next few days. Chief executive Gerry Wang said he was confident the South Korean government would provide sufficient funds to pay port operators and Seaspan by the time those ships arrived to ensure they were unloaded.
“We’re keeping our fingers crossed, but South Korea is an export economy and the government needs to ensure the flow of goods to consumers,” Wang said. “I don’t think they want that supply chain to be interrupted on a permanent basis.”
Alas, it may be, if only for the time being: as Reuters notes, creditors have sought an arrest warrant against the Seaspan Efficiency, a ship hauling cargo for Hanjin that was due to arrive in Savannah.
In the meantime, two weeks after the bankruptcy was filed, most of the company’s “ghost ships” remain in limbo: it is not clear when port operators will bring others to berths in Southern California and elsewhere. One Hanjin ship off Long Beach, the Hanjin Montevideo, is under the supervision of a court-ordered custodian after two fuel companies obtained an arrest warrant for it over unpaid bills. Hanjin and the fuel providers are trying to work out an arrangement to release the vessel.
It’s no less chaotic around the globe: in Hong Kong, the Hanjin Belawan arrived from Shanghai on Monday loaded with containers and was anchored a short distance from the city’s Kwai Chung Container Terminal. Terminal operator Hongkong International Terminals, a unit of Hutchison Port Holdings Trust controlled by tycoon Li Ka-shing, has outraged local cargo owners by charging fees of between HK$10,000–HK$15,000 per Hanjin container to release them at the port.
The delays have concerned importers like Alex Rasheed, president of Pacific Textile and Sourcing Inc in Los Angeles, which has a shipment of clothing in 16 containers on Hanjin ships off Long Beach. “We’re already starting to run out of some colors and some sizes,” Rasheed said, noting Hanjin’s collapse comes as U.S. retailers prepare for the all-important holiday shopping season.
In Singapore, cargo owner AP Oil International said it had been sending replacement cargos on urgent orders.
“On the procurement side, we do also face some issues to receiving raw materials shipped on Hanjin vessels, which of course we are adjusting our supply chain and production to meet and replace the cargo due to the uncertainty of the situation now” Group Chief Executive Ho Chee Hon said.
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In total, Hanjin said that as of this morning, it had 93 vessels, including 79 container ships, stranded at 51 ports in 26 countries. Readers who wish to track the fate of Hanjin’s “ghost ships” in real time – as it looks likely that many of them will remain stuck in legal and financial limbo for a long time – can do so courtesy of the following Platt’s interactive map.