Hanjin Bankruptcy Raises Retail, Supplier Concerns

A ruling from a United States bankruptcy court judge will allow ships from the financially distressed Hanjin Shipping Co. to dock in the United States, but it remains unclear if goods on those ships will be offloaded.

On Tuesday, the Wall St. Journal reported that Judge John Sherwood placed Hanjin under the protection of U.S. bankruptcy laws, which temporarily will prevent creditors from seizing company assets. In late August, the South Korean-based Hanjin filed for bankruptcy in Seoul Central District Court.

The Journal report said that the company’s bankruptcy filing has left some 80 Hanjin ships and approximately 500,000 containers stranded at sea. Hanjin has earmarked $90 million in an effort to try and solve the crisis, but more funding will likely be needed long term.

Leading U.S.-based retail trade groups have voiced concern over the Hanjin issue, encouraging all parties involved to work toward a solution while also seeking assistance from federal agencies.

“Retailers’ main concern is that there is millions of dollars worth of merchandise that needs to be on store shelves that could be impacted by this,” said Jonathan Gold, vp/supply chain for the National Retail Federation. “It is understandable that port terminal operators, railroads, trucking companies and others don’t want to do work for Hanjin if they are concerned they won’t get paid. However, we need all parties to work together to find solutions to move this cargo so it does not have a broader impact on the economy.”

Officials with the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) asked U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Federal Maritime Commission Chairman Mario Cordero to use their powers to resolve the situation.

“We urge the Department of Commerce and the Federal Maritime Commission to work together with all stakeholders, including ports, cargo handlers and the South Korean government, to resolve the immediate disruption and mitigate the harms posed by the current situation,” said Sandy Kennedy, RILA president.

Eric Endres, vp/marketing with small electrics supplier Select Brands, expressed concerns about the longer-term impacts of the Hanjin bankruptcy.

“This may put more strain on availability of containers through other carriers, which could potentially impact some of the larger promotional orders that have yet to be booked or shipped,” he told homeworldbusiness.com. “We’re working as far out as we can and being proactive about making sure there will be containers and carrier space.”