Maersk plays down arrest risk of Hanjin’s chartered ships
In a customer advisory, Maersk Line brought some clarity to fears that all the vessels in Hanjin Shipping’s 98-container ship fleet faced arrest by creditors following the South Korean carrier’s fall into court protection.
The Hanjin ships are scattered across the world, wonderfully illustrated in a map using IHS Markit’s AISLive ship tracking product. Some are stuck in ports and others are little more than floating warehouses with nowhere to go.
So far three ships are believed to have been arrested, one in Singapore and two in China, with no real indication of whether others will follow. There is a view that now a court rehabilitation plan is in progress the ships will be able to resume operations, but that has yet to be confirmed.
In its advisory, Maersk said it has received queries related to two chartered vessels, Hanjin New Jersey and Hanjin Florida, that were sailing on the Mashariki service between Asia and East Africa.
“We would like to stress that, despite their names, neither of these vessels is owned nor operated by Hanjin Shipping; these vessels are fully operated by Maersk Line, and, as such, customers can continue to book shipments with peace of mind,” the note explained.
It is a key point. Of the 98 container ships in Hanjin’s fleet, 61 are chartered in. Because the ships are owned by charterers such as Seapan and Danaos and only operated by Hanjin, creditors seeking payment for outstanding dues cannot arrest the vessels.
This was also highlighted by a partner at maritime law firm Clyde & Co, Anthony Woo, who said for a creditor to arrest a Hanjin ship, it had to belong to Hanjin. If it was chartered in, the vessel should not be at risk.
And that applied to the actual containers, as well. Even though painted in a particular liner livery, many containers used by the carriers are leased and would not be at risk of being held by creditors. Neither would the cargo contents of the containers that did not belong to Hanjin, either.
There are many moving parts to a container supply chain and creditors appear to be grabbing whatever they can and worrying about the legalities later. This is causing delays to shipper supply chains as they try to locate their containers and get them released, sometimes being forced by terminals to pay heavily to get their cargo back.
The Dutch Shippers’ Council in the Netherlands brought this issue before their court and a judgment was reached quickly that found container terminals could not charge 1,000 euros ($1,115) per container, but only the normal container handling fees of 250 euros only. While the judgment only applies to members of the Dutch Shippers’ Council, it is believed other shipper groups are preparing to take the same legal action.
Hanjin Shipping has begun its court rehabilitation process that aims to allow the ocean carrier to trade its way back to financial health, a questionable goal that will only be achievable if a significant amount of its $5.4 billion debt can be written off. That means creditors will be burned badly, with ship charterers heavily exposed.
Montemp Maritime expects to lose an extra $720,000 each month that Hanjin fails to make charter payments, while Danaos, a Greek container ship owner, said Hanjin Shipping accounted for around $560 million of its $2.8 billion contracted revenue backlog as of June 30.
Contact Greg Knowler at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter: @greg_knowler.
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