It is estimated that as much as $14 billion worth of cargo has been stranded at sea since the announcement of Hanjin’s financial troubles. Scores of ships and over 500,000 ocean containers have been denied port access throughout the world due to uncertainty as to who will pay for docking fees, unloading bills and container storage. Some ships that have docked have been seized by the company’s creditors.
Hanjin has been granted bankruptcy protection in Korea and the U.S., this protection allows for their ships to move in and out certain terminals in Korea and the U.S. without risk of the assets being seized. It is unclear though once the ship arrives at the terminal if Hanjin will be able to afford the unloading of the containers.
Other carriers have added capacity in the wake of Hanjin receivership filing. Maersk Line and Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) as part of their 2M Alliance are launching new weekly transpacific services. Klaus Rud Sejling, head of Maersk Lines East-West Network advised, “We are responding to increased demand in the transpacific. With supply chains disrupted, many customers are approaching us for transport solutions for their cargo.”
Hyundai Merchant Marine (HMM) is also adding new services on major trades, and they have joined with Heung-A Shipping, Korea Marine Transport and Sinokor Merchant Marine to form a new vessel sharing alliance to service the intra-Asia trade.
Members of California’s Congressional delegation and PORTS Caucus have asked the Department of Commerce to “step in and start discussions with Hanjin and South Korea to come to an agreement that guarantees our ports and our workers will be paid and these ships will be unloaded”. Yonhap News Agency in Korea has reported that officials from the U.S. Commerce Department are scheduled to visit South Korean government officials on Friday.
A group of forwarders and U.S. Customs brokers have filed with maritime regulators two cases that claim that Maher Terminal at the Port of New York and New Jersey is illegally charging thousands of dollars for each Hanjin container set for export that had only been stored at their location for a few days. Hanjin’s bankruptcy notice had prevented the containers from being loaded for export.
Ed Greenberg, general and transportation counsel for the group, commented “I don’t know how these demurrage charges were calculated since they only filed bankruptcy charges last week. My view is, it’s not the BCO’s (beneficial cargo owner) fault. It’s not the NVO’s (Non-Vessel Operator) fault. The terminals’ complaint is with Hanjin. I don’t think they have the right, I don’t think they have the legal right, to transfer their contractual obligations with Hanjin to the BCO”.