via Wikimedia Commons
via Wikimedia Commons

Nearly a week after Hanjin Shipping Co. filed for bankruptcy, three of the South Korean company’s vessels remained adrift or anchored Tuesday near the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports as the shipping line’s executives scramble to raise money to pay creditors.

Hanjin, the world’s seventh-largest shipping company, filed for bankruptcy last Wednesday. The resulting halt in operations has prompted concerns in the retail industry over the fate of cargo, held up on Hanjin’s ships, that had been headed for store shelves.

One of Hanjin’s ships, the Greece, was on its way to the Long Beach port but has been drifting off the coast of Carlsbad and Oceanside, about 50 miles south of its destination, while the Boston and the Montevideo remain anchored in and around Long Beach port waters, according to the latest update from the Marine Exchange of Southern California, which manages ship traffic.

South Korean media reports indicate that Hanjin executives are using the firm’s assets, including a 54 percent stake in one of Long Beach port’s biggest terminals, Total Terminals International, to raise funds to get its cargo unloaded.

South Korean government officials have also offered public funds to the company if it could raise its own cash, according to a BBC report, which says the company’s ships risk being seized by creditors if they dock.

A judge ordered that the Montevideo be held in Long Beach after the Miami-based company World Fuel Services sued over $488,750 in unpaid fuel bills, Reuters reported last week.

The Montevideo appeared to have dropped anchor after it had already unloaded its cargo and was about to leave the port, Long Beach port spokesman Michael Gold said.

Hanjin also owes $20,000 in unpaid vessel traffic fees to the Marine Exchange of Southern California that were racked up over several months, according to its executive director, Capt. J. Kip Louttit.

Over the Labor Day weekend, unions representing shipping industry workers called for Hanjin to come up with funds to pay their wages.

Rep. Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro, followed up that appeal by sending a letter — dated Tuesday — to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, urging the cabinet official to help get South Korea and Hanjin to reach an agreement so that funds will be available to pay dock workers who unload cargo at West Coast ports.

“The ports will not unload them (the ships) because they have been told they will not get paid,” Hahn wrote. “These ships need to be unloaded — each day that they sit there our local workers and businesses lose money.”

Fewer jobs have been available for dock workers at the terminal operated by Total Terminals International, so those workers have been told they could try to seek jobs at other terminals, said Gold of the Port of Long Beach.

The TTI terminal moves about a quarter of the goods coming through the Long Beach port annually, handling 2 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units out of the 7 million to 8 million TEUs each year, Gold said.

Gold said TTI, which is used by several shipping lines other than Hanjin, is current on its port lease.

–City News Service 

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