One of the world's biggest shipping companies has filed for receivership — leaving one of its vessels stuck in Prince Rupert.

South Korea's Hanjin Shipping Co. Ltd. filed for bankruptcy protection today, causing chaos for thousands of customers around the world.

"All of its customers and its partners have been feverishly attempting to divert their freight to other carriers and finding space with other container carriers so their cargo can keep moving," said Peter Tirschwell, a senior director at IHS Maritime & Trade.

The company, which moves up to 100 million tons of cargo each year, reported a second-quarter net loss of $182 million earlier this month and has debt of approximately $5 billion. 

One of its ships, the 255-metre long Scarlet, entered the Port of Prince Rupert at 10 p.m. PT on August 30, and is now in an assigned anchorage.

Port spokesperson Michael Gurney said under normal circumstances, the ship would go directly to the terminal for unloading, but it has not been handled because of the uncertain situation.

"The Port of Prince Rupert, together with its partners DP World and CN, are in communication and are actively working to realize a resolution to the situation," said the port in a statement. 

Tirschwell said it could be a while until the situation is resolved.

"Nothing's happening with any of the cargo, and this is all back to school merchandise, Christmas merchandise, beginning to come in now and unless the terminal is paid to unload the ship — and it needs to be paid by a carrier that's now entering bankruptcy — then the cargo's not going to get moved," he said.

Trade Deficit

In this photo taken Monday, Oct. 10, 2011, the cargo ship Hanjin Buenos Aires loaded with containers leaves the Port of Miami. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz) (Alan Diaz/Associated Press)

In a statement, CN Rail said it will not be accepting any additional Hanjin export loads going forward, and any export units already at its terminals will not be loaded onto trains, although import containers will be released. 

There is a big impact on the Canadian freight industry, said Ruth Snowden, executive director of the Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association.

She said members from across the country have been contacting her, concerned about the fate of the cargo on Hanjin vessels.

"It's most unusual. This is going to impact ports around the world," Snowden said. "It impacts Canadian importers and exporters because … if I have a container on that vessel I can't get it."

There are thousands of containers on Hanjin ships and many more Canadian products could be sitting on docks abroad, Snowden added. Traders will now have to retrieve their cargo and arrange for it to be shipped on other lines, she said.

"It's going to be very confusing for the next few weeks."

With files from Stephanie Mercier and The Canadian Press