Hanjin ships head to NY-NJ as lawyers squabble

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The Hanjin Baltimore, released from arrest at Panama, is expected to arrive at the Port of New York and New Jersey on Tuesday, one of three Hanjin Shipping vessels to deliver long-awaited cargo to the port in a four-day stretch as the South Korean carrier winds down much of its fleet.

The Hanjin Switzerland docked at Maher Terminals about 7 p.m. Thursday in an unusual two-part move that also involved a stop at the Global Container Terminal in Bayonne, where cargo was removed and placed on a barge and sent on to Maher Terminals. The move was designed to avoid problems fitting the ship under the Bayonne Bridge.

The Seaspan Efficiency, under charter to Hanjin Shipping, was expected to arrive at the port Friday afternoon amid a contentious effort by a fuel company to collect on an $837,338 lien before the vessel goes off charter.

The three ships are among 34 vessels still operated by Hanjin Shipping after it filed for bankruptcy in a South Korean Court on Aug. 31, leaving tens of thousands of containers of cargos stranded in ships, yards, warehouses and terminals around the world. Another 64 vessels operated by the carrier have left the liner’s service since the bankruptcy filing, mostly charter vessels returned to their owners, according to the company’s website.

Authorities released the Hanjin Baltimore on Wednesday after the owners paid off a lien, about a month after the ship’s arrest near the Panama Canal. The vessel, which had capacity of 7,500 twenty-foot-equivalent units was originally scheduled to stop Sept. 4 at New York-New Jersey. At midday Friday, the ship was in the Caribbean off the cost of Haiti, according to AIS Live, a sister product of JOC.com within IHS Markit.

The arrival of the 4,600-TEU Seaspan Efficiency has been marked by a vigorous legal campaign waged by attorneys for fuel company OceanConnect Marine Co. to collect $837,338 before it left US waters. The debt is for fuel provided to the vessel at sea.

Attorneys for the fuel company appeared Thursday on a phone conference in U.S. District Bankruptcy Court in Newark, which is hearing the US end of the bankruptcy case, and for the second time in a week demanded that Hanjin attorneys report whether the Seaspan Efficiency would go off charter once it had unloaded cargo in New York-New Jersey. The fuel company’s attorneys said they had solid information that the end of the unloading operation would mark the conclusion of the charter.

The issue is key to the fuel company because Judge John K. Sherwood in September granted protection from arrest to Hanjin-operated ships, including those under charter, in order to encourage them to enter US ports and deliver cargo rather than staying offshore where they could not be touched.

The fuel company fears that the Seaspan Efficiency will leave US waters and be scrapped. AIS Live lists the ship’s status as “to be broken up.”

In support of the fuel company’s contention, attorney J. Stephen Simms offered an affidavit that, in an unusual twist, centered on two men with the same name, J.H. Kim, on opposite sides of the argument — one a manager for OceanConnect, and the other a manager in Hanjin procurement department.

The affidavit claims that the Hanjin manager on Oct. 12 told the fuel company manager of the same name that the charter would end as soon as the cargo was delivered to the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Hanjin attorneys, however, said Thursday the Seaspan Efficiency was still under charter, and they had no information as to when that would ended. In response, Sherwood, echoing a ruling on Oct. 7, ordered Hanjin attorneys to “promptly” inform the fuel company if they learned that the vessel would come off charter.

On Friday, Simms offered a $1,000 reward to anyone who could provide evidence that the charter would end after the unloading, which would mean a US marshal would have justification to arrest the ship before it left port.

The arrival of the 9,000-TEU Hanjin Switzerland prompted port officials to take special measures to unload the vessel, as they did when the 7,500-TEU Hanjin Miami stopped at the port on Sept. 22, amid concerns that once unloaded it would ride too high in the water fit under the Bayonne Bridge.

The bridge’s 151-foot clearance, scheduled to be raised to 215 feet by the end of 2017, is too low for many vessels to pass underneath. However, it’s the only access route for ships that are headed for Maher Terminals. To keep the vessel lower in the water, the Hanjin Miami was weighed down with empty containers from other carriers on departure.

Maher Terminals, in a message to customers late Thursday, said the Hanjin Switzerland would be partially unloaded at Maher and that the remainder of the containers would be unloaded at Global, which can be reached without passing under the Bayonne Bridge. Cargo discharged at Global will then be moved by barge to Maher, from where it will be sent to its destination, the terminal said.

Two other Hanjin ships are headed for New York, according to the Hanjin Shipping website. The Hanjin Chongqing, whose arrival is scheduled for Oct. 27, and the Hanjin Bremerhaven, which remains under arrest near the Panama Canal.

[joc]

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