Billions’ Worth of Merchandise Stranded at Sea

The collapse of one of the world’s largest ocean carriers has marooned more than half a million cargo containers in international waters. As much as $14 billion worth of cargo is stuck in limbo awaiting the fate of bankrupt Hanjin Shipping, with dozens of vessels anchored offshore filled with toys, shoes, computers, couches, dishwashers, etc. Port operators and cargo handlers refuse to unload the ships until they are paid.

Hanjin’s global creditors have impounded at least eight vessels, and about 80 are still at sea until captains are assured ships and cargo won’t be seized. It isn’t clear whether Hanjin’s parent company will be able to secure the $90 million it pledged to ease the carrier’s financial woes, or whether that will be enough to dent Hanjin’s $5.5-billion debt. The company has resorted to selling off ships from its 149-vessel fleet, after signs that the South Korean government won’t bail out its largest ocean carrier.

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