On the one hand, The Containership Company's (TCC) case is the brief story about a discount route between Los Angeles and Taicang, China, serviced by six small chartered ships, where shippers booked slots in advance for 10, 20, 0r 30 containers, or whatever amount they had committed to. The more containers, the lower the final price would be for the shipper.
But on the other hand, the aftermath has received a majority of the attention, when the bankrupt company filed a series of compensation claims against many of its former customers, 75 in total, for failure to comply with the agreement.
Two Danes were responsible for TCC's business proposal, Frank Kayser and Jakob Tolstrup-Møller, who founded TCC in 2009. The idea was well received, shippers booked slots on the ships, and things we're looking solid in the first quarter of 2010. But then TCC was hit by the crisis and customers failed to supply the promised amount of containers, which turned out to be fatal for TCC. The company had to stop sailing in April 2011 and filed for bankruptcy in December 2011.
Compensation claims in progress
As early as August 2011, the bankrupt company filed compensation claims against 75 shippers at the court in Manhattan, New York. And today, two years later, it's possible to do a preliminary status report, which might indicate how the major case complex will look when it's all over.
Out of the total 150 customers that used TCC, 91 failed to live up to their commitments. According to the agreement between TCC and its customers, the price was USD 250 per missing container, and that's the figure that forms the basis of a majority of the compensation claims. TCC was still lacking a total of USD 24 million when the company filed for bankruptcy, money that TCC's Norwegian parent company TCC ASA is eager to get its hands on.
"We have currently reached settlements in almost half the cases. We have another 40-45 cases to go, as two new settlements were reached in the last few days. We expect to settle more of them, though not all of the cases. The last ones will then be decided by the court, which we expect will happen in late 2014," says Johannes Grove Nielsen, attorney with Bech-Bruun, to ShippingWatch.
If the cases are won, he estimates that a vast majority, if not all, of the creditors' outstanding debts will be collected.
In addition to TCC's own massive web of compensation claims, a series of port and container leasing companies have filed compensation claims for the losses they believe to have suffered following TCC's bankruptcy. Meanwhile, ship arrests have been performed around the world during the process, as bunker suppliers stated that they were owed money. This part of the matter, however, is more or less closed.
The settlements also mean that the names of the companies involved will not be disclosed.