South Korea's Hanjin Shipping plans to take legal action in jurisdictions worldwide to prevent its vessels being seized, as more of its ships were blocked from docking at ports in the wake of its collapse.
As of Monday, 79 Hanjin ships including 61 container ships and 18 bulk carriers have been denied port access, according to South Korea's maritime ministry. That figure includes one vessel seized in Singapore by a creditor, a company spokeswoman said. Hanjin has 141 ships, of which 128 are operating.
At least three U.S. firms have also launched legal action against Hanjin to seize vessels and other assets over unpaid bills.
The collapse last week of the world's seventh-largest container shipper has caused much agonizing among its clients over the fate of stranded cargo. Whether Hanjin can fend off ship seizures will depend on the jurisdictions involved, lawyers said.
Hanjin vessels are currently carrying cargo worth 16 trillion won ($14.5 billion) belonging to some 8,300 cargo owners, the Korea International Trade Association said, adding that the carrier has unpaid bills amounting to 610 billion won.
As part of its efforts to gain legal protection for its ships, Hanjin has filed a Chapter 15 petition in a U.S. bankruptcy court in New Jersey. It plans to pursue legal action in roughly 10 countries this week and later expand that to 43 jurisdictions, South Korea's financial regulator said.
Many port authorities and port service providers are demanding cash to work on Hanjin ships, the Hanjin spokeswoman said.
Its lead creditor, the state-run Korea Development Bank, met with officials of parent firm Hanjin Group to discuss its commitment to paying fees so stranded ships can enter ports, but did not reach a conclusion, a bank official told Reuters.