Clock ticks down on Hanjin-linked containers in Singapore
Monday (Nov 28) was D-day for cargo owners who still have goods sitting in containers owned or operated by South Korea’s beleaguered Hanjin Shipping in Singapore ports.
Port operator PSA Singapore announced in an undated note on its website that Nov 28 is the last day for all shippers to claim Hanjin-linked cargo-laden containers that are lying in its terminals and facilities.
“Take notice that if the containers and/or the cargo therein remain unclaimed after Nov 28, 2016, we will take steps to dispose of and/or sell them as we may deem fit,” PSA’s note said.
When contacted by Channel NewsAsia on Monday, a PSA spokesperson declined to comment about the number of Hanjin containers that remained unclaimed in Singapore, as well as the total number of containers that have been collected and unloaded thus far.
The demise of Hanjin Shipping – South Korea’s biggest and the world’s seventh-largest container line – nearly three months ago had sent shockwaves across the ailing shipping industry, and created a massive global supply chain disruption when more than 100 of its ships and their cargo were left in limbo at sea.
Since Singapore ports were declared as one of the “safe havens” for the shipping giant and its local subsidiaries in September, at least 18 Hanjin vessels have called and departed from local ports, according to a PSA notice dated Nov 1.
To retrieve their cargo on board the ships of the South Korean firm, cargo owners have had to fork out additional charges, including a refundable deposit of S$5,000 per container to PSA and stevedorage fees in cash. However, the process of getting to their stranded goods has been far from smooth sailing, with some businesses in Singapore describing it as a “nightmare”.
Nearly two months on, the mad scramble to work out contingency plans is over for at least one company.
“Everything is back to normal now,” NCS Line Singapore’s managing director James Hwang told Channel NewsAsia on Monday.
To locate and gain control of its 80 containers on board various Hanjin vessels, the freight forwarder’s team in Singapore had worked six days a week throughout October. Currently, NCS Line is transloading its final batch of 15 containers and is sorting out its finances after having forked out a hefty six-figure sum in advance to rescue all of its cargo.
While it has received most of the refund from PSA for its S$400,000 deposit, the freight forwarder is still awaiting a refund of US$4,000 (about S$5,712) from Hanjin Shipping for the use of the South Korean firm’s containers.
During the transloading process, goods in a Hanjin container are usually unpacked and placed into a non-Hanjin container before being transported to its final destination. However, there were goods in four containers that had been “too risky” to move, said Mr Hwang, and so the company decided to pay a deposit of US$1,000 to continue using the same Hanjin containers.
“Hopefully, until we get back our money from Hanjin, they will continue to operate,” the managing director said. On Nov 22, Hanjin Shipping, which is under a court order to cut its workforce and dispose of its assets, announced that it would be selling part of its container ship business to Korea Line Corp for US$31.38 million.
But regardless of whether he gets the refunds from Hanjin, Mr Hwang told Channel NewsAsia that he is relieved that this painful process is finally over.
“I was angry due to our workload, the money issues, and also because this is one of Korea’s biggest companies. I felt shameful as a Korean,” he said. “I was very upset against Hanjin and also the Korean government because their way of taking action is not proper. When the government made the announcement that they could no longer inject money into Hanjin, they should have analysed the consequences. This chaos could have been avoided if they had thought through it more carefully.”