[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The global Anglican agency Mission to Seafarers has come to the aid of stranded crew members working for Hanjin Shipping. The South Korean company operates one of the world’s largest shipping lines, but filed for receivership in August. As a result, some 97 of its container ships with 2,500 seafarers on board became stranded at sea as port managers refused them entry in case creditors used legal powers to seize the ships. With the financial status of the company in doubt it was questionable whether the money existed to pay for the ships to be unloaded.
“Today we have written a letter offering our support to Hanjin Shipping and their seafarers,” the mission agency’s director of justice and public affairs, the Revd Ken Peters, said. “If the ships continue to be blocked from entering port, there could be a welfare crisis for these seafarers, as vessels will quickly run out of food, fuel and essential provisions.
“Seafarers will be very anxious and their families at home will be concerned and distressed. The Mission to Seafarers has now issued a global alert to all our 200 port welfare teams to be ready to assist Hanjin seafarers when they come into port. We have also asked Hanjin to publish the global Seafarer Helpline details to all their crewing agencies, so that should seafarers have an emergency, they can quickly find help.”
The Revd Ken Peters, the Mission to Seafarers’ director of justice and public affairs.
Photo: Mission to Seafarers
A number of Hanjin ships are currently waiting outside the port of Busan in South Korea; and have been visited by the Mission to Seafarers “Flying Angels” ship-visiting group – 10 volunteers from the Korea Maritime and Ocean University (KMOU). “They report that seafarers are worried about their wages and are concerned that there have been calls from some officials for the crews to be sent home,” port chaplain Simon Ro said. “They have also told me that there is concern about shortages of supplies on board.”
Short-term relief may soon be at hand for the stranded crew members after Korean Air Lines, the Korea Development Bank, the Hanjin Group chairman and Hanjin Shipping’s former chairman advanced loans totalling ₩160 billion KRW (approximately (£111 million GBP) to enable the stranded ships to unload their cargo, which has valued at an estimated $14 billion USD (approximately £10.8 billion GBP).
Shares in Hanjin, which had fallen by more than 20 per cent on Wednesday as fears of liquidation grew, rallied strongly today, increasing their value by some 28 per cent. The long term future of the company, however, remains uncertain.