One year after the Hanjin collapse cut into volumes at the port of Busan, Hyundai Merchant Marine announced a new record for its cargo handling at the port. Volumes were up 90 percent year on year, led by skyrocketing transshipments. Transit cargo – a core part of Busan's growth strategy – was up by more than 130 percent.
“With this speed, we expect to handle more than 1.8 million TEU in Busan Port this year, exceeding the aim of 1.5 million TEUs that we announced earlier," an HMM spokesperson said in a statement. "We will do our best to grow further as Korea’s national carrier and contribute to rebuilding Korea’s maritime business.”
It is the firm's second record-setting month this year. HMM says that the strong performance reflects a resurgent Chinese and Southeast Asian transshipment market. In addition, volumes have been boosted by the line's alliance-like agreement with 2M and its alliance with regional lines Sinokor and Heung-A. HMM’s Busan business has also benefited from its acquisition of Hanjin's terminals in Kaohsiung, Tokyo and Algeciras, and from its rising share of the Asia-USWC market.
HMM narrowly avoided Hanjin's fate last year by agreeing on a debt-for-equity swap with its lenders. Its rebirth is due in part to a $1.3 billion government equity investment, and its growth is now attracting interest from international investors. BlackRock is reportedly in talks to invest $880 million, though details have not yet been confirmed.
Separately, HMM is said to be contemplating a westbound service via the high-latitude Northern Sea Route, using vessels of 2,500-3,500 TEU. The route would reduce transit times from Korea to Europe by about 25 percent relative to the traditional services through the Panama Canal or the Suez Canal. Russia has made the development of the Arctic route a national priority, and Korean President Moon Jae-in recently discussed Arctic cooperation with Russian president Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Germany.