US Commerce Department Urged to Resolve Hanjin Shipping Crisis

Tim Rue/Bloomberg News

The National Retail Federation and other U.S. trade groups are urging the Commerce Department to work with the South Korean government to resolve the Hanjin Shipping Co. crisis, which stranded an estimated $14 billion of goods at sea.

Last month’s bankruptcy of Hanjin, which moves huge containers of products to the United States from Asia, has roiled supply chains and delayed shipments of everything from T-shirts to televisions. Companies are concerned that their goods may be seized by Hanjin’s creditors when the ships dock, the organizations wrote in a letter to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.

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“U.S. businesses rely on predictability in their supply chains, particularly during the busiest shipping season of the year,” the groups said in the letter, which was dated Sept. 20. “The recent bankruptcy filing has caused widespread disruptions in freight shipments worldwide.”

Hanjin’s bankruptcy idled containerships just as U.S. retailers were gathering supplies for the crucial holiday shopping season. Companies also are concerned about cargo stranded at overseas ports, according to the letter. And they’re facing increasing freight charges as they seek alternative transportation options.

Small and midsize businesses may be especially hard hit, the organizations said.

“We strongly encourage you to continue to work with the South Korean government to bring about a swift and economically beneficial resolution that will allow cargo to move through the global supply chain and give certainty to U.S. businesses,” they said.