Hanjin Tells Major Retailers That Vessels Won't Stop in the US

Tim Rue/Bloomberg News

Hanjin Shipping Co. won’t allow containerships anchored at sea to complete their journeys to the United States, according to an e-mail obtained by Transport Topics.

The e-mail was sent from Hanjin on Sept. 22 to Wal-Mart, Target, Lowe's, Home Depot, Hewlett-Packard and the holding company that owns HomeGoods, Marshalls and T.J. Maxx. It was also sent to Medline, a supplier of medical, surgical and pharmaceutical products to hospitals, nursing homes, and doctors.

“As you are aware, due to legal and financial constraints under Korean court receivership, many service operations have been impacted and in many cases altered or even halted. For vessels which have been halted, we have exhausted all means to secure alternative options to complete final delivery to the final destination. To our sincere regret, we are unable to perform the intended delivery,” it reads.

Four vessels on the list were scheduled to unload containers on the West Coast. The Hanjin Yantian was due to call the ports of Los Angeles and Oakland. The Hanjin Rio De Janiero was scheduled to berth at the Port of Long Beach, and the Hanjin Geneva was due to go to the Port of Seattle and Tacoma.

Hanjin wrote in the e-mail that most of the vessels will return to Pusan, South Korea, to discharge, and the retailers will have to find another way to get their cargo to the United States. Other vessels will discharge in China, Singapore or Japan.

The National Retail Federation already has written a letter, along with 120 interest groups, to U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker about how the consequence of the uncertainty could be devastating on the small and medium-size companies.

“For some, there is added confusion about the location of cargo, where cargo will be unloaded and how the cargo will be transported. The trade community is also facing steadily increasing freight charges as they look for new transportation options as well as concerns about fees assessed on cargo,” according to the retailers' letter.

The federation told TT that several members had cargo on the Hanjin Switzerland, which was sitting near the Suez Canal, unable to pay the toll to cross.

The developments could mean that the containers might not arrive in the United States in time to be available for Black Friday.