One in 3 South Korean maritime experts blame the government for the bankruptcy of Hanjin Shipping Co., once the nation’s leading shipping company, a poll showed Wednesday.
Hanjin Shipping, previously the world’s seventh-largest shipper, was put under court protection in September last year as its creditors refused to save the failing company before being declared bankrupt in February.
According to the survey of 36 corporate executives, scholars, government officials and journalists, 37 percent of the respondents said Hanjin Shipping’s failure was caused by the government’s lack of awareness of the shipping industry’s importance, and its will to revive the ailing firm.
Another 13 percent cited “political reasons,” while nearly 46 percent pointed the finger at the incompetence of company management and major shareholders.
Lee Hwan-ku, vice president of Heung-A Shipping Co., unveiled the findings during a seminar held at the National Assembly building in Seoul to mark the first anniversary of Hanjin Shipping’s insolvency.
Concerning the future of the local shipping industry, 83 percent of those surveyed replied that industry leader Hyundai Merchant Marine Co. should merge with SM Line Corp., a midsized shipper, to compete with global behemoths. SM Line is a unit of SM Group, which owns South Korea’s No. 2 bulk carrier Korea Line Corp.
Last year, some experts broached the idea of merging embattled Hanjin Shipping with Hyundai Merchant Marine, then the nation’s No. 2 shipper amid concerns Hanjin’s failure would result in the loss of its ships, terminals and global networks, but the government dismissed it.
Slightly over 30 percent of the respondents cited the insufficient policy response of the nation’s maritime and financial authorities as the main reason for the failed merger of the two industry titans.
Hanjin Shipping, established in 1977, and local shippers had been in severe financial strain because of falling freight rates stemming from an oversupply of ships and a protracted slump in the world economy.
The company’s collapse has stoked fears that South Korea, once a shipping powerhouse, could lapse into a minnow on the global stage unless concerted efforts are made to boost its competitiveness.