Commercial or Humanitarian Reason gets Stranded Ship to Shore


Hanjin freighter finally allowed to offload cargo after weeks-long isolation


A Hanjin Shipping vessel that has been stranded off the B.C. coast for almost two months was finally allowed to dock at Port Metro Vancouver on Thursday, although the crew’s future remains uncertain.

Port officials confirmed the Hanjin Scarlet was docked at Vancouver’s Centerm terminals. The terminal operator, DP World, did not respond to requests for comment.

Peter Lahay, a Vancouver-based coordinator for the International Transport Workers Federation, said the vessel and its crew of 24 have been anchored 45 kilometres off the coast of Prince Rupert since Hanjin declared bankruptcy on Aug. 31.  Lahay, who visited the crew by hiring a water taxi last Sunday, said the conditions onboard was dire.

“We travelled for over an hour to reach the vessel,” Lahay said.  “When you are leaving Prince Rupert, you can’t even see the vessel given it’s so far away. … It’s right out there in the wilderness, and the crew was suffering, running out of food, water and supplies.  The chief engineer, a Korean gentleman who’s diabetic, was running out of insulin.  And they are stressed out like you wouldn’t believe because nobody is communicating with them.”

The bankruptcy of Hanjin — the world’s seventh-largest container shipping company — sent ripples through the global industry.  Many ports suspended the handling of cargo from Hanjin vessels because of doubts the company would not be able to pay port service fees.

At the time of the bankruptcy, two Hanjin vessels were in B.C. ports.  Both were ordered to anchor offshore, and the one at Constance Bank off Victoria was allowed to resupply earlier this month.

The Hanjin Scarlet was allowed to dock on Thursday because of concerns from clients who had cargo stranded on the ship.  The cargo, originally destined for Seattle, would be headed there on another vessel.

“I don’t think it was pressure from me or our efforts that brought the vessel in,” he said.  “I don’t think the ship has been brought in for humanitarian reasons. It was done for commercial reasons, for the cargo to get to their customers.”

Lahay said that, while he has been in contact with the crew and Transport Canada’s Marine Safety division to ensure the sailors’ well-being, no contact has been made with Hanjin or South Korean diplomatic representatives, which frustrates the Scarlet’s operational officers, most of whom are Korean.

In a statement, an official at the Korean consulate in Vancouver said all Hanjin vessels are under Hanjin Shipping’s management and deferred all questions to Hanjin’s New Jersey office.

According to Lahay, crew members consist of officers, who are mostly Korean and signed to six-month contracts, and sailors, many of whom are from the Philippines and signed to 10-month contracts.

Lahay said most of those with contracts that haven’t expired are still being paid, so they may be obligated to stay with the ship regardless of whether it is operating or not.  Most of the crew whose contracts have expired just want to go home.

“They know their careers with this company are finished, and they need to get on with their lives,” Lahay said, adding he is urging Canadian authorities to allow those crew members to leave.

“I hope that (the docking) makes the vessel cargo-free so that the issues around the ship/crew can be resolved,” he said.  “As of now, we still don’t know what the future holds for them.  We don’t know if they get to go home or not, and we don’t know if the ship is stuck in B.C.  We don’t know if this is the end of the story or the beginning.”

Lahay confirmed that crew members who still have contracts and will be staying with the ship have been granted shore leave.

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Source: Vancouver Sun