Amid Hanjin Shipping crisis, employees threatened on land, at sea

Posted on : 2016-09-06 17:14 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Demands for payments, ire of cargo owners intensifying at ports worldwide; shipping crews at risk in foreign waters
A Hanjin Shipping containership is docked at the pier at Busan after two days of being on standby at the outer port
A Hanjin Shipping containership is docked at the pier at Busan after two days of being on standby at the outer port

Employees at Hanjin Shipping are facing threats and dangers around the world in the wake of the company’s placement under corporate rehabilitation procedures (court receivership).

According to Hanjin Shipping sources on Sept. 5, employees dispatched to 43 branches and 160 agencies in 80 countries around the world are dealing with risks and difficulties. A growing number are also feeling physically threatened. At one branch office in Tianjin, China, shipping service suppliers hired knife-wielding gangsters to seal off the first floor of the building after news broke of the court receivership application. Employees were narrowly able to evacuate after reporting the situation to Chinese police.

In Mumbai, terminal transportation and loading companies threatened employees while demanding back payments. In response, female employees began telecommuting and requesting protection from the South Korean consulate, police and security companies for the safety of family members. In North India, groups armed with guns and criminal gangs have many on edge as they fear the attempts to demand arrears could erupt into violence.

In Bangkok, local employees have been sent to nearby countries amid concerns that cargo owners and shipping contractors could confiscate assets and file lawsuits to have them prevented from leaving.

Disturbances have also broken out in Dubai, where cargo owners have visited branches to demand their stuck freight be returned immediately. But with demands not only for loading fees but also separate deposits, the owners’ discontent is growing. Delays in cargo handling in Ho Chi Minh City and Jakarta have also resulted in protests by cargo owners.

Meanwhile, crew members aboard some 50 ships stuck at sea after being refused port access could find themselves in international waters with nowhere to go. Currently, Hanjin Shipping cargo ships can only put in after prepayment of loading and port usage costs due to fears of cargo ships being detained. A ship that cannot enter any port would have to return to South Korea, in which case it would face difficulties with fuel, lubricants and food supplies.

But cargo-laden vessels in international waters for a long period of time could become targets for pirates and remain vulnerable to wind, waves and poor weather conditions. Drinking water and food supplies typically run out after about one week. In this situation, financial support is urgently needed, either to enter a port and unload cargo or to return home.

“Around 50 container ships and bulk carriers are on standby in foreign waters, unable to enter or leave ports,” the Hanjin Shipping union said in a statement in response to the situation. “Under these conditions, necessary living items cannot be supplied. The crew members need support from both the company and government to be able to retain their human dignity.”

By Kim Kyu-won, staff reporter

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