Bankrupt South Korean shipping line Hanjin Shipping is selling part of its container business for 37 billion won (S$44.7 million) - although this represents only a small portion of total claims by creditors.
Bulk carrier Korea Line Corp will take over the business network and client data of Hanjin's Asia-United States route, along with units in seven nations including the US, China and Vietnam and 574 workers based in Korea and abroad, said Hanjin in a regulatory filing yesterday.
The sale - to be completed on Jan 5 - comes as Hanjin faces claims totalling some US$800 million (S$1.1 billion). It has until February to submit a rehabilitation plan to the Korean bankruptcy court, after having filed for receivership in August.
Meanwhile, port operator PSA has been urging shippers to collect their cargo from Hanjin-owned or operated containers in Singapore.
Shippers have till Monday to do so, PSA said in advertisements in newspapers and trade media. It also said it "will take steps to dispose and/or sell (cargoes and containers)" if they remain unclaimed after the deadline.
PSA last month announced it has berthed and serviced more than a dozen Hanjin ships and helped release cargo in more than 3,000 containers to affected parties.
A PSA spokesman had no comment when asked about the number of containers yet to be collected. Industry analysts estimate the figure to be in the hundreds.
CTI Consultancy partner Andy Lane said: "With many Hanjin ships idle at sea for the first few weeks of September, any importer with urgent needs most likely made alternative arrangements and shipped new replacement orders.
"PSA does... need a plan to move the idle Hanjin containers on - to somewhere, anywhere."
That said, Ocean Shipping Consultants director Jason Chiang believes PSA is likely owed payment by Hanjin, although this could be easily recovered by auctioning off the Hanjin containers.
An industry veteran said: "As far as I know, PSA has a 'no-credit' policy with shipping lines where it requires the lines to deposit a sum of money equivalent to their outstanding payables that is then held in escrow... So that would mean the bulk of the Hanjin fees are still safe."
But the damage has been done for firms down the supply chain.
Mr Seo Bin, part of the commodity trading team at food producer Dongsuh Companies in Seoul, said his goods had been stranded on the Hanjin Rome in Singapore since September. The cargo of edible oils was finally transshipped and unloaded at Jebel Ali port last week, although the Hanjin Rome remains under court arrest here.
"I shipped with Hanjin to save $10 per metric ton, and I never thought the Korean government would allow Hanjin to go down," he told The Straits Times.
"I'm just relieved that my cargoes finally got moving, even though I still had to talk to our buyers to take over the shipment at discounted prices and negotiate with them regarding any compensation."