California Town Vows to Rid Itself of Hanjin Shipping Containers by Year's End

SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg News

Ontario, California’s legal team vows that hundreds of abandoned shipping containers, illegally stored at four industrial yards in the agricultural southern part of town, will be gone by the end of the year.

Restraining orders have been issued on two of the property owners, and discussions with the other two property owners have been constructive, said Richard Egger, an attorney representing the city.

The shipping containers were transported to industrial yards in Ontario in November, soon after the financial collapse of Hanjin Shipping Co., the world’s seventh-largest ocean courier. Thousands of empty containers — some owned by the shipper, others leased out to other companies — began piling up at the space-challenged, busy port complex, but those needed to be unloaded elsewhere to make room for the busy holiday season.

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Hundreds came to Ontario, but city law forbids their storage in the agricultural southern part of town. City leaders also voiced concern that increased truck traffic related to the containers would plague existing residents and affect home sales in the surrounding Ontario Ranch area.

The city will “take action until [each] property is brought into compliance,” Egger said, adding that fighting the city “can be a costly experience for a property owner.

“As the city has taken on this program to resolve these issues, many of the property owners have been quick to respond in a constructive way, and we would hope those who have not responded in a constructive way have taken notice of the fact that it is a more efficient and less expensive way for property owners, as well as the city, if they act cooperatively.”

Defendants named in complaints include:

• The Lanting family, and Gardner Trucking Inc., with a property in the 9000 block of Merrill Avenue and 8900 block of East Eucalyptus Avenue.

• Jay Hong Park, Carnie Chung, Adrian Won, Sylvia Won and Young Lee, with a property in the 8400 block of East Chino Avenue where it meets the 13100 block of South Walker Avenue.

• Harold Jay Bollema, with a property in the 8200 block of Schaefer Avenue.

• Jean and Catherine Gastelluberry and Fleet Services, with a property in the 13600 block of South Grove Avenue.

Defendants involved in the suits could not be reached for comment.

The city has filed temporary restraining orders against the owners of the properties on Merrill and East Chino avenues, Egger said.

“Both storage of containers, as well as parking trucks, is something the city is trying to eliminate as quickly as possible,” Egger said. “When we have settlement discussions with owners and operators, we’re working toward a relatively short timeframe as to when the properties are brought into compliance.”

Egger said settlements are still under negotiation, but outcomes may include fines and penalties against the owners of the property who stored the containers illegally. They may also be on the hook for the city’s legal expenses.

The owners of the Merrill Avenue property will be in court in early March for a preliminary injunction hearing.

“We have been in constructive discussions with the owner and operator,” Egger said of that case.

Regarding the property on East Chino Avenue, Egger said: “There has been some cooperation and constructive settlement discussions.”

Mike Radak, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Hanjin, said in an earlier interview that he did not know about the Ontario containers, that they were probably leased and that any Hanjin-owned containers have been legally stored elsewhere.