Hundreds of Shippers Still Waiting for Cargo in Hanjin Boxes ‘Held Hostage’ By Out-of-Pocket Ports

REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo
REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

By Mike Wackett 

(The Loadstar) – Three months after the collapse of Hanjin Shipping, hundreds of shippers have still not received their cargo, even though the bankrupt carrier’s containerships have now all been discharged.

When Hanjin entered court receivership on 31 August, some 500,000 teu, worth an estimated $12bn, was on over 100 ships around the world – many were refused entry into ports until debts had been settled and several were arrested by creditors.

Evidence of the continued fallout was revealed at a meeting of the Taiwan government’s transportation committee yesterday, when it was claimed that, “50,000 containers carrying Taiwanese products were either stranded at sea or seized by port authorities”.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator Cheng Yu-peng urged the government to seek compensation from South Korea on behalf of Taiwan’s shippers.

Mr Cheng said: “As of today, some of the cargo owned by Taiwanese companies is still at Singapore or at seaports in other nations.”

It has not been formally disclosed by authorities, but there are thought to be tens of thousands of Hanjin containers at Singapore terminals, effectively abandoned by shippers unable or unprepared to pay the deposit and other charges required to release the boxes.

Terminal operator PSA is insisting on a $5,000 per container deposit, refundable when the empty container is returned to a PSA yard. And it also requires the consignee or shipper to pay other costs, including stevedoring and storage charges, which could amount to a significant sum.

Some shippers have calculated that the charges exceed the value of the goods and have abandoned the boxes. As a consequence, PSA issued a notice advising that if containers remained unclaimed after 28 November, it would “take steps to dispose and/or sell them”.

A similar situation is unfolding in container ports around the world as terminals try to recover at least the charges relating to the Hanjin containers on their quays, by effectively placing a lien on them.

Meanwhile, the list of Hanjin Shipping’s creditors grew to 3,854 at the cutoff date of 25 October, from the 2,998 two weeks earlier. They include customs authorities, pilots, tug companies, agents, truck companies, storage facilities, consultants, accountants and even lawyers, all caught up in the biggest bankruptcy in the 60-year history of container shipping.

The total amount claimed by creditors as at 10 October was over $800m, but with the last-minute rush to stake claims and lodge amendments this amount is likely to be much higher. The biggest single creditor, shipowner Seaspan, has amended its claim from $42m to $46m.

The total amount of Hanjin’s indebtedness could be revealed on Friday, when the shipping company is scheduled to hold a meeting in Seoul to update relevant parties on its rehabilitation proceedings.

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