Hanjin is a significant player. Industry data provider Alphaliner placed Hanjin Shipping at the seventh largest globally, with a 2.9 percent market share; that compared with the largest, APM-Maersk, with around 622 ships and a 15.4 percent market share.
On its website, Maersk Line said that around 90 percent of global trade was transported by ship.
Hanjin's receivership has hit as the retailers were awaiting their shipments of Christmas goodies.
"The goods stuck on Hanjin ships are largely for the shelves on the run up to Christmas," noted Greg Knowler, the Asia editor for maritime and trade at IHS Markit, in an email to CNBC.
That's not lost on retailers preparing for their busiest time of year.
Sandy Kennedy, president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, said in a letter to the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Federal Maritime Commission on Thursday that "the prospect of harm is significant and apparent," with the potential for a "ripple effect" throughout global supply chains.
She added that ports were refusing to release cargo without assurances payment would be made.
Kennedy noted that Hanjin represented nearly 8 percent of transpacific trade volume for the U.S. market.
One of the ripple effects could be higher prices for holiday shoppers. Freight rates for routes out of South Korea have surged as much as 50 percent, according to media reports.
That could affect shipments from some of South Korea's largest exporters.
Daniel Yoo, a strategist at Kiwoom Securities, told CNBC that Hanjin handled more than 50 percent of Samsung Electronics' device shipments from South Korea to the Americas and 23 percent of LG Electronics' appliances.
LG Electronics, one of the world's largest TV-makers, was looking for contingency shipping arrangements for its electronics, Reuters reported.