One of three Hanjin ships idled for days off the Southern California coast was allowed to dock in Long Beach and begin unloading cargo early Saturday, a sign that a crisis sparked by the Korean shipping company's bankruptcy may be easing.
The Hanjin Greece, which had been at sea since leaving Busan on Aug. 21, docked at Pier T in Long Beach at 6:50 a.m., according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California, a traffic controller for the L.A. and Long Beach port complex. The ship is expected to depart on Monday after unloading.
It's not clear when two other ships, the Hanjin Montevideo and Hanjin Boston, will be able to dock and be unloaded, but Carson freight forwarder Robert Krieger said any movement after more than a week of waiting is a good sign.
"The gridlock of nothing happening has stopped," said Krieger, president of Krieger Worldwide. "If there's been an agreement worked out for the Greece, I feel very optimistic other ships are going to come in."
The Greece was allowed to dock after U.S. and Korean bankruptcy courts allowed Hanjin to spend $10 million to unload that ship and others, according to Reuters.
Hanjin filed for receivership on Aug. 31 after the debt-laden company's creditors rejected a restructuring plan. Since then, Hanjin cargo ships have been idling outside ports around the world waiting on action in bankruptcy courts. The company didn't want to bring any ships to dock because it feared they would be seized by creditors. Port terminal operators, meanwhile, feared the bankrupt shipping giant wouldn't be able to pay the longshore workers and truck drivers needed to unload and deliver Hanjin cargo.
Those delays have hamstrung companies awaiting cargo deliveries. Alex Rasheed, president of downtown Los Angeles clothing importer Pacific Textile, said he has 16 cargo containers trapped on Hanjin ships, including two containers on one of the vessels still waiting to dock in Long Beach.
In those 16 containers are about $2 million worth of T-shirts, sweatshirts and polo shirts bound for Wal-Mart, J.C. Penney and other big retailers. Rasheed said if cargo stranded on Hanjin ships isn't offloaded and delivered soon, those goods might not make it to retailers before the holiday shopping rush begins.
"It takes time for goods to move through distribution centers and then in to every store," Rasheed said. "If this thing is not resolved quickly, there's going to be empty store shelves."
As Hanjin ships have been idled offshore, that also has meant fewer hours for longshore workers who unload ships and truck drivers who haul goods from the port complex to inland rail yards and warehouses.
The shipping company accounts for about 4% of all cargo coming into the Port of Los Angeles and 12% of cargo coming into the Port of Long Beach. Hanjin is the majority owner of Total Terminals International, which operates Long Beach's largest shipping terminal.
"There are a lot of people suffering," said Patrick Kelly, executive officer of Teamsters Local 952, speaking at a news conference in Wilmington on Saturday morning.
He said the situation has been particularly hard for truck drivers, as many of them are classified as independent contractors, not as company employees, meaning they cannot claim unemployment benefits when work dries up.
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