Woes of Hanjin ship stranded off eastern coast of Singapore

Crew members going about their daily jobs on board the Hanjin vessel. Here, they are checking on the condition of reefers or refrigerated containers, which are typically used to store food or fresh produce. These containers have to be monitored at le
Crew members going about their daily jobs on board the Hanjin vessel. Here, they are checking on the condition of reefers or refrigerated containers, which are typically used to store food or fresh produce. These containers have to be monitored at least twice daily.PHOTO: MOON KWON DO
Captain Moon Kwon Do
Captain Moon Kwon Do PHOTO: MOON KWON DO

Cargo vessel is stranded off eastern coast of S'pore after Rickmers files claim for money it says it is owed by Hanjin

Captain Moon Kwon Do has spent more than half his 16-year sea-faring career sailing across the world, but he now finds himself stranded in foreign waters.

The ship under his charge - the ill-fated Hanjin Rome, owned by the bankrupt Hanjin Shipping Company - has been sitting off the eastern coast of Singapore for more than a month.

The mid-sized cargo vessel was placed under court arrest here on Aug 29 after German shipowner Rickmers filed a civil claim for money it says it is owed by Hanjin.

Hanjin will have to apply to the Singapore High Court for the ship to be released, but for now, it is unable to berth or leave. "There is no development on this matter, nobody tells me any good news," Mr Moon, 36, tells The Straits Times over an Internet chat.

The ship started its journey from Busan, South Korea, on Aug 19. It stopped in Singapore and was supposed to go on to the Middle East before returning. There are 24 crew members on board - 11 South Koreans and 13 Indonesians. Most of their contracts have yet to expire, which means they have to remain on board.

A CAPTAIN'S DUTY

I will never abandon my ship without a proper takeover.

CAPTAIN MOON KWON DO, on needing to see his chief mate get promoted to captain as his replacement before he can leave the ship. He hopes to return to Busan as soon as possible as one of his family members is in critical medical condition.

The crew still go about their assigned day-to-day jobs, says Mr Moon, though there is also time for other activities, like watching movies and fishing. He adds that the ship has enough supplies of food, water and other consumables for the next 30 days, thanks to a chandler who came by on Sept 17 with provisions.

The Hanjin Rome is carrying cargo such as frozen meat, which is stored in reefers, or refrigerated containers. Mr Moon did not reveal further details about the contents in the containers, but says: "You can easily think of them as all the stuff you can find in a department store."

While Mr Moon is in correspondence with Hanjin's operational staff every day, the last he heard from the management was on Sept 14.

Their message for the crew? "Stay strong on your position, be kind for our customers," Mr Moon recalls.

"The crew fully understood, and they agreed. They are doing their best to ensure the safety of the vessel, the cargo and themselves. "Strength and honour," he quips, with a smiley emoticon, though without elaborating on his or his colleagues' state of mind.

That said, Mr Moon, who has been with Hanjin since 2000, hopes to be able to return to Busan as soon as possible, as one of his family members is in critical medical condition. "She now solely awaits my return," he says.

The father of eight-year-old twin girls is waiting for a letter from the Singapore Sheriff's Office approving his repatriation, which could take another week. He will also need to see his chief mate get promoted to captain as his replacement before he can leave.

"I will never abandon my ship without a proper takeover," says Mr Moon, adding that a ship is never allowed to not have a captain.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2016, with the headline 'Hanjin Rome caught in waves of uncertainty'. Print Edition | Subscribe