In the first signs that the standstill caused by Hanjin Shipping Co. financial collapse last week was easing, a ship moored off the Long Beach coast was ordered ashore for unloading Friday.
The move came hours after a U.S. bankruptcy judge said he would approve Hanjin Shipping Co.’s provisional protection from creditors so vessels could dock and unload products, and retailers could begin selling those products in stores.
“Today’s ruling takes us a step closer to taking the ships on the water to berth,” said Noel Hacegaba, managing director of commercial operations at the Port of Long Beach. “I feel very optimistic that the gridlock is starting to break apart.”
The Hanjin Greece, which had recently been parked near the Mexican border after running low on low-sulfur fuel, is now set to dock at dawn Saturday at the Port of Long Beach’s Total Terminals International, where Hanjin owns a majority stake.
Lawyers for Hanjin said a South Korean bankruptcy court approved the release of $10 million in funding for costs associated with unloading four Hanjin Shipping Co. chartered ships that have been sitting off U.S. water, including the Greece and Boston, which is moored in the breakwater. Two other ships, the Gdyina and Jungil, were originally set to offload in Long Beach.
“We have the money to fully service those four ships,” said Ilana Volkov, a lawyer for Hanjin, during the bankruptcy proceedings.
But there are nine more Hanjin-operated ships at sea near the United States, and their future and that of their crew and cargo is uncertain.
Last week’s financial fall of Hanjin has had a stunning ripple effect throughout the United States, leaving ships stacked high with goods as the holiday shopping season looms. Workers can’t unload the cargo out of fear they won’t be paid.
The company has sought protection from courts around the world as creditors line up.
“The objective is to get ships into port,” said Judge John Sherwood of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Newark, New Jersey, who granted Hanjin the provisional protection from creditors, which also prevented any more ships from being seized.
Last week, the Montevideo was arrested by U.S. Marshalls after fuel suppliers laid claim on the massive ship. It sits in the San Pedro Bay.
Sherwood ordered Hanjin to work on hammering out a plan over the weekend with dozens of companies, from fast-fashion supplier Forever 21 to the Home Shopping Network, on how to pay for and pick up their merchandise, some now sitting in cargo carriers at sea.
The complicated web of business relationships in the supply chain from tug boat operators to vessels could take years to unwind. The chaos has also left smaller operators frustrated, while some say they breath easier after Friday’s development.
“It’s good news for us and our clients. It has been some tough days. Our staff has been stressed out,” said Robert Krieger, president of Carson-based Krieger Worldwide, a freight forwarder and broker.
Five of his clients had shipments on the Greece, and he said he will be staffing his business up over the weekend in anticipation of the rush of cargo.