Hanjin’s stranded ships now down to 34

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Hanjin’s stranded ships now down to 34

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Hanjin Tianjin, a vessel of Hanjin Shipping, unloads cargos at Busan New Port on Sept. 2. Before, the ship was drifting on the outer ports of Busan, as workers from subcontracted companies refused to unload Hanjin Shipping’s cargos citing unpaid wages. [SONG BONG-GEUN]

Hanjin Shipping reduced the number of its stranded ships to 34 as of Saturday, six at sea and 28 temporarily seized in ports.

The troubled shipping arm of Hanjin Group operates a total of 141 ships, 97 container ships and 44 bulk freighters. Apart from the stranded vessels, 28 container ships were fully unloaded and 35 are on their way back to Korea. As for the freighters, 28 were successfully unloaded and 16 are operating normally.

Since Hanjin Shipping filed for court receivership after creditors decided to let it sink, the company’s vessels around the world were denied entry into ports over payment issues or not allowed to leave. Some ships were seized by creditors and others remained at sea to prevent being seized.

As the world’s seventh largest container carrier, disruption of Hanjin’s operations threw a wrench in the world’s supply chain. The company’s ships were moving an estimated $14 billion worth of goods during the peak shipping period before Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Hanjin Shipping had to eliminate the risk of its ships being seized by creditors in ports by requesting “stay orders” in countries with major harbors. This allowed Hanjin to unload cargo without fear of the ships being seized.

On Sept. 13, Hanjin Group Chairman Cho Yang-ho chipped in 40 billion won of his own money to help clean up the mess. Former chairwoman Choi Eun-young - who is publicly blamed for driving the company’s debt-to-equity ratio from 155 percent in 2009 to 1,445 percent in 2013 - also coughed up 10 billion won of her own money.

But an attempt by Hanjin group’s biggest affiliate - Korean Air - to lend 60 billion won has not come through.

Korean Air wanted Hanjin Shipping to put up as collateral the Long Beach Terminal in California, in which the company owns a 54 percent stake.

But MSC, a Swiss-based global container shipping company, owns the remaining 46 percent.

“There is a slim chance that either MSC or the creditors would give permission for the plan,” said a spokesman with the Financial Services Commission. “Even if they do, it will take time to persuade them.”

Instead, Hanjin creditors are expecting the CEO to reach deeper into his own pocket to support the shipping company.

The longer Hanjin Shipping takes to unload and deliver its customers’ goods, the more damage it will cause exporters and importers - which it can be sued for in the future.


BY SONG KYOUNG-SON, LEE TAE-KYUNG [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]
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