The bankruptcy of the Hanjin shipping line has thrown ports and retailers around the world into confusion, with giant container ships marooned and merchants worrying whether tons of goods will reach their shelves.
The South Korean giant filed for bankruptcy protection on Wednesday and stopped accepting new cargo. With its assets being frozen, ships from China to Canada found themselves refused permission to offload or take aboard containers because there were no guarantees that tugboat pilots or stevedores would be paid.
“Hanjin called us and said: ‘We’re going bankrupt and we can’t pay any bills — so don’t bother asking,’ ” said J. Kip Louttit, executive director of the Marine Exchange of Southern California, which provides traffic control for the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation’s busiest port complex.
Three Hanjin container ships, ranging from about 700 feet to 1,100 feet (213 meters to 304 meters) long, were either drifting offshore or anchored away from terminals on Thursday. A fourth vessel that was supposed to leave Long Beach on Thursday morning remained anchored inside the breakwater.
The Seoul-based company said Friday that one ship in Singapore had been seized by the ship’s owner. Hanjin Shipping spokesman Park Min did not confirm any other seizures.
As of Friday, 27 ships had been refused entry to ports or terminals, she said.