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Korean cargo line bailout saves Christmas for tech companies

HP and Samsung had goods stranded at sea by container line's bankruptcy

Bankers have loaned US$100m to Korean shipping line Hanjin, likley saving Christmas for tech companies, distributors and retailers.

Hanjin's finances ran aground in late August, when it filed for bankruptcy. That filing meant that the company's 97 container ships and the half a million or so containers they carried entered troubled legal waters, because ports don't like to unload cargo if they're not sure of being paid.

Some ships therefore stayed at sea as it was felt safer to stay in international waters than to risk being “arrested” in port. When ships are arrested, an act possible under maritime law, their cargoes can enter legal limbo and the ships go nowhere fast.

In some nations, arrangements were made to allow Hanjin ships to unload without legal complications. But earlier this week more than 30 Hanjin vessels remained at sea and in limbo.

More than US$10bn cargo drifted with them, including a bunch of PCs HP Inc had made to meet expected Christmas demand. Samsung also had products, mainly whitegoods, aboard Hanjin vessels.

Now the good news: Korea Air, which owns about a third of Hanjin, and the Korea Development Bank have agreed to bail the shipping line out to the tune of about $100m.

That money will mean the line's ships can dock and unload their goods, and allow further voyages.

The bailout comes at a very handy time for those starting to move goods intended for holiday sales, meaning vendors, distributors and retailers have one less hassle to worry about. The bailout will also keep global supply chains for all manner of goods moving, including technology concerns. ®

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