Looking after the Crew – Hanjin’s Legacy
The transport community is reeling from last week’s unexpected bankruptcy. Containers are stranded at ports worldwide. Ships lay at anchor, embargoed from terminals that fear they will be seized and held once docked. This is a troubling situation for the cargo owners, but what of the crewmembers who faithfully manned Hanjin vessels, until the unthinkable happened? Are they being released from service, or simply collateral damage, left to fend for themselves? With vessels stranded both at port and at sea the real concern is for these merchant sailors.
Hanjin Crews in Limbo: Approximately 70 container ships and 15 dry bulk carriers are stranded off 50 ports in 26 countries. On average there are 24 crewmembers aboard each of Hanjin’s vessels making the task of resupplying the ships all the more difficult. German ship owner Reederei NSB has 7 vessels under charter to Hanjin which are scattered across several ports. In a corporate statement officials said, “We are looking after crews on our Hanjin ships”. Arrangements have begun to re-supply these vessels until a more permanent solution can be worked out.
Ships at port pose no less of a problem: The Hanjin Boston is currently off the coast of Long Beach and presumably headed for Total Terminals International, a facility owned in part (54%) by the Hanjin Group. It’s still unclear at this point how TTI will handle this vessel. Hanjin did receive court approval on Monday to spend funds necessary for food and vital supplies. As the situation deepens, will sufficient money be available for the protracted period of time, which could tie up many of the ships and their crews?
In the Port of Vancouver the Mission to Seafarers reported that crewmembers of the Hanjin Vienna received their pay and currently had sufficient food and supplies. There was no word yet regarding long term plans for the crews.
Crew Health and Safety, what’s next: Ships on the Bussan to L.A. run carry provisions for over two weeks while a passage through the Suez Canal to Europe will have around a month’s worth of stores. The disposition of Hanjin’s assets could take weeks or even months to clear up, but an action plan for the crews will need to be in place before the situation becomes critical.
The International Seafarers Center of POLB-LA located in the Port of Long Beach has been in contact with the Korean Consulate and the International Transport Forum regarding potential issues that might arise from vessels docking in Southern California. They have in the past come to the aid of crews that became stranded in Southern California.
In the Port of New York and New Jersey the regional Seamen’s Church Institute in cooperation with other agencies and the U.S. Coast Guard is monitoring the situation. They will be mounting an effort shortly to give assistance and are formulating an action plan at this time.
Setting things right: At present most vessels still have some of their voyage rations left. Typically the ships carry enough food, water and essential supplies for a full voyage with some emergency stores. Hanjin is making an effort to supply ships where possible so that essentials are provided for. What is next for the crewmembers? They’ll need to be released from service and arrangements will have to be made for their passage to their various countries. Not all crewmembers are Korean.
Organizations like the Seamen’s Church Institute of New York and New Jersey and the International Seafarers Center of POLB-LA can assist during the transition period, but what will be the long-term effect on these sailors?