It seemed to analysts a very ambitious plan by South Korea’s second-biggest bulk carrier, Korea Line, to acquire the Asia-US tradelane assets from bankrupt ocean carrier compatriot Hanjin Shipping.

After all, in the supply chain chaos that followed Hanjin’s August demise, which saw 100 ships and 500,000 teu of cargo worth over $12bn stranded around the world, most of its customers fled to the safety of Maersk, MSC or CMA CGM – evidenced by the Danish giant’s 11% volume surge in the third quarter.

So there was little business left to buy – unless of course there had been some promise of support from local export behemoths like LG and Samsung – only the liabilities of offices and staff and a few uneconomic small ships.

It now appears that Korea Line’s parent, specifically the shareholders of the SM conglomerate which itself purchased the bulk carrier from liquidators in 2013, have blocked the plan, citing what many thought at the time, that it does not have enough experience to make the container business work.

So we will not know whether Korea Line could have succeeded where Hanjin failed – but at least it did not lose money in finding out.

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