A US bankruptcy judge on Friday granted Hanjin Shipping the protection it requested for its ships wanting to dock and unload in US ports.
The ruling by Judge John Sherwood in a Newark, New Jersey court, means the failed South Korean shipping giant cannot have its ships or other assets seized in the US.
The judge had made a temporary order to the same effect on Tuesday but Friday’s decision extends it in scope and time.
It opens the way to four vessels which have been waiting to unload their cargo in US ports.
The other potential impediment to the ships’ unloading had been concerns about Hanjin’s ability to pay for services but a lawyer for the shipper said on Friday that a Korean court had approved the use of at least $10m to cover fees to dockworkers, transportation workers and the like.
The four ships waiting to dock in US ports are the Hanjin Greece, Hanjin Boston, Hanjin Jungil and Hanjin Gdynia. Hanjin Greece is the first to begin unloading, at the Port of Long Beach in southern California.
In another boost to the beleaguered line, the board at sister firm Korean Air finally approved on Saturday a move to lend KRW60bn ($55m) to Hanjin Shipping.
“The board members decided to provide the loan but only in exchange for collateral (from Hanjin Shipping),” a company spokeswoman said.
Hanjin Shipping filed for bankruptcy protection in Seoul on August 31 after losing the support of its banks.
The decision has sent shockwaves around the world of international trade and shipping, with the potential for chaotic impact on the supply chain if laden Hanjin ships are stuck in limbo or arrested.