Bankruptcy by major maritime carrier Hanjin creates tangled mess for trucking; feds investigating price gouging

Updated Sep 27, 2016
The first Hanjin ship to dock at the Port of Oakland following the company’s bankruptcy filing.The first Hanjin ship to dock at the Port of Oakland following the company’s bankruptcy filing.

Trucking and other industries are attempting to untangle the chaotic chain reaction created when South Korea’s Hanjin Shipping filed for bankruptcy Aug. 31.

The shipping giant has until Dec. 23 to submit its reorganization plan, but analysts doubt the Korean court will approve it. The company also applied for Chapter 15 in Newark, New Jersey, which allows U.S. courts to recognize foreign insolvency proceedings of companies with assets and operations in more than one nation.

Korean Airlines, Hanjin’s parent company, has agreed to loan the shipper $54 million to continue business operations. The shipper also has secured $45 million from its current chairman and former chairwoman, according to its Sept. 22 report to U.S. District Judge John K. Sherwood.

Meanwhile, Hanjin’s bankruptcy has produced results from exacerbating port intermodal equipment problems to making retailers scramble to be stocked by Black Friday.

The company’s empty containers are overflowing ports and truck yards, while chassis remains scarce. Hanjin has refused to let its containers be reloaded onto ships or and many terminals stopped accepting the company’s returns.

The shipper is finalizing a lease on property near New York City for these containers and trying to do the same on the West coast. Additionally, it is working with more than 70 marine terminals and off-dock container yards to accept return of containers Hanjin owns and leases. However, the company has not resolved issues over container sale-lease-back agreements, it said.

The American Trucking Associations joined the National Retail Federation in asking Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker for help resolving issues resulting from the bankruptcy. Shippers face higher fees to pick up cargo and growing freight charges while seeking new transportation options.

The Federal Maritime Commission has received numerous complaints and some Congressional inquiries regarding of marine terminal operator demanding unreasonable fees from beneficial cargo owners before releasing shipments. The commission has accepting written complaints Sept. 2 and will investigate if MTO have violated the Shipping Act governing their business practices.