Starting tomorrow, the Port of Oakland will accept empty ocean containers owned by Korean carrier Hanjin Shipping Co. Ltd., whose Aug. 31 bankruptcy filing has created a mess out of maritime supply chains worldwide.
The announcement means chassis that were used to haul the boxes can now be freed up to transport new loads, the port said. It also means cargo owners and intermodal truckers won't have to find storage space for the empty boxes once they're emptied, the port said. Storage space is in demand worldwide because terminal operators have refused to load Hanjin containers on vessels, and Hanjin has said it won't accept empty boxes on its vessels.
Mike Zampa, a port spokesman, said Oakland expects to process many hundreds of empties, although he did not cite a specific figure.
"There's still a lot of uncertainty regarding Hanjin's bankruptcy filing," said Jon Driscoll, the port's maritime director. "With this move, we can at least eliminate the worry about storage and prevent a potentially crippling chassis shortage."
Since the filing by the world's seventh-largest container line, many of its ships have been stranded at sea and unable to berth because of worries that ports and terminal operators would not be paid for unloading the boxes.
Hanjin has received about US$90 million from its parent company and from Korean Air Lines, its largest shareholder, to pay for boxes to be unloaded from some vessels. However, the liner will require much more capital to clear out the backlog. As a result, other ships remain idled at ports worldwide.
Two Hanjin ships calling at Oakland were able to discharge their cargoes last week. Though the Hanjin collapse has not affected overall operations, an increasing flow of empties had threatened to inhibit cargo movements, the port said.
Boxes can be returned to port property that is adjacent to Oakland International Container Terminal, the port's largest terminal. Drivers will be required to return chassis through the terminal's main gates.