BY Richard Summerfield
South Korean shipping firm Hanjin Shipping Co Ltd has filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy protection in the US, in an attempt to stop the company’s creditors seizing its fleet of vessels.
Hanjin, the seventh biggest shipping company in the world, filed for protection on Friday in a court in New Jersey after receiving word that its creditor banks had decided to end the financial support they were providing the company. The creditors also rejected Hanjin’s proposed restructuring deal.
The $896m worth of financial assistance Hanjin had received from its creditors had proved insufficient as the company tried to stay afloat amid volatility in the global shipping industry.
Overcapacity has had a significant impact on shipping companies the world over. In the days running up to its US filing, the company also moved to protect its assets elsewhere, filing for receivership in South Korea on Wednesday. In an attempt to secure legal protection for its ships, Hanjin has plans to pursue legal action in around 10 countries over the course of this week and later expand that to 43 jurisdictions.
As a result of the company’s bankruptcy filings, Hanjin’s vessels have been denied access to ports at a variety of locations. The number of ships that have been denied port access around the world, including in the US, has risen to 79, comprising 61 container ships and 18 bulk carriers, according to South Korea’s financial regulator. That figure includes one vessel seized in Singapore by a creditor, a company spokeswoman said. Hanjin has 141 ships, 128 of which are currently operating. In China, Japan, Singapore and India ,the company has seen 45 vessels denied access to ports. Several of Hanjin’s vessels have also been seized by creditors, including state-run Korea Development Bank.
Hanjin’s ships are currently carrying cargo worth $14.5bn belonging to some 8300 cargo owners, according to the Korea International Trade Association. The bankruptcy of a company of Hanjin’s status is notable, as it accounts for 7.8 percent of trans-Pacific trade volume for the US market. The company’s collapse marks the largest ever bankruptcy filing for a container shipper.
Hanjin’s stock has fallen around 34 percent since the company’s creditors said they were no longer supporting the firm. Given that the company’s collapse has coincided with the high seasonal demand for the shipping industry ahead of the year-end holidays, Hanjin’s bankruptcy is likely to cause a ripple effect throughout the global supply chain, and in the US retail space.