Amid shipping co. bankruptcy, Port of Houston tries to keep cargo moving

While cargo from South Korea’s Hanjin Shipping Co. finally is being unloaded in California, the Port of Houston Authority has been working out ways to get its shipments to local customers.

Hanjin declared bankruptcy in late August, leaving cargo undelivered and suppliers unpaid. Last week, a New Jersey bankruptcy judge granted the company protection from creditors, and Hanjin said it would raise $90 million to pay workers to unload cargo ships stranded in ports around the world, sister publication L.A. Biz reports.

Over the weekend, the first of at least four Hanjin ships began unloading cargo at Long Beach, California, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Meanwhile, the Houston Chronicle reports the Port has been releasing cargo imported from Hanjin to its owners for $225 per container — which includes throughput and stevedoring charges — instead of relying on Hanjin to pay those fees.

Jeff Davis, chief port operations officer, told the Chronicle that around 400 Hanjin containers arrived on ships operated by Cosco Container Lines the past couple of weeks, and similarly sized shipments are expected later this month.

Hanjin is the seventh-largest ocean carrier in the world, and it was the eighth-largest cargo and vessel customer at the Port of Houston last year. But it only makes up 3 percent of the Port’s yearly cargo volumes, Davis told the Chronicle, adding Houston is “not as impacted as some other ports.”

However, retailers are concerned about getting their shipments in time for the holiday season, as the unloading delays could cause a ripple effect down the supply chain, according to the National Retail Federation.

“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,” Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain and customs policy, said in a statement. “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.”