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  February 7th, 2017 | Written by

Where Have All the Hanjin Ships Gone?

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  • Hanjin bankruptcy caused idle container fleet to nearly double.
  • 31 of 98 ex-Hanjin ships have found new service elsewhere.
  • “It takes more than a few months to strip the carcass of a dead shipping line.”

With South Korea’s Hanjin Shipping undergoing liquidation, sales of its vessels have so far netted $460 million at auction, with more to follow. But over two-thirds of all Hanjin containerships remain inactive, according to a recent report from Drewry, the global maritime consultancy.

The collapse of Korean shipping group Hanjin Shipping on August 31 2016 exposed the frailty of container lines in an era of ultra-low freight rates and caused panic among cargo owners with assets aboard their ships. Now that the logistical chaos has been cleared up, what has happened to those vessels?

An immediate impact could be seen on the containership idle fleet, which surged after Hanjin’s demise when 98 ships with an aggregate capacity of 610,000 TEU suddenly were left without cargo to carry. The idle fleet went from 904,000 TEU in mid-August to 1.7 million TEU in mid-November.

The declining capacity of the idle fleet from December onwards is due in large part to some of those ex-Hanjin ships being re-chartered. Research by Drewry shows that four vessels of 15,000 TEU in total have been scrapped, two of which were owned by Hanjin and none older than 20 years, while another 31 ships, at 134,000 TEU, have found new service elsewhere.

Only one of those ships that have found new operators was previously owned by Hanjin, the 4,275-TEU Hanjin Durban (now KMTC Chennai). Non-operating charterers such as Danaos, Kmarin, and Seaspan have managed to find replacement lessors for 30 ships so far, presumably at considerably lower daily charter rates than Hanjin was paying. Maersk Line has shown the biggest appetite for the former Hanjin fleet by chartering 11 vessels of 77,000 TEU, the largest being two 13,000 TEU units, the Hanjin Africa and the Hanjin Harmony, that were sold at auction to anonymous buyers in December for around $131 million apiece, according to media reports. Maersk is deploying the vessels (renamed Maersk Emerald and Maersk Ensenada respectively) in the 2M Alliance Asia-Europe network.

There remain some 63 ex-Hanjin ships with close to 460,000 TEU worth of nominal capacity that are parked up. These include Hanjin Europe, one of the three 13,092 TEU units sold in December by Peter Döhle Schiffahrts-KG, which was originally listed as Hanjin-owned. Another six sisterships with similarly opaque ownership will be auctioned off next month.

At least eight vessels should be back on the water fairly quickly. KMTC in December paid $5.3 million apiece for the purchase of four Hanjin-owned 4,275-TEU units, of which it has currently only put one into service in the intra-Asia trade. At the same time, the Korean Samra Midas (SM) Group acquired five ex-Hanjin owned 6,655-TEU units as part of a $23 million deal for the bankrupt line’s transpacific assets, which it intends to operate in the same trade possibly as soon as March via a newly formed subsidiary unit SM Lines.

The other confirmed sale of Hanjin-owned ships involves Seaspan Corporation paying about $26.5 million for four 4,275-TEU vessels. According to the company’s website, it has yet to find a charter party to take over operations.

Drewry estimates that there remains up to as much as 150,000 TEU of Hanjin-owned ships that are still for sale. With a glut of containerships available, and limited demand growth expected, it is debatable just how big a market they can attract even at knock-down prices. The biggest and youngest ships are likely to fetch the higjhest prices.

“It clearly takes more than a few months to strip the carcass of a dead shipping line,” Drewry concluded, “and we expect many of the former Hanjin ships to occupy the idle fleet for some time to come.”