Hyundai Merchant Marine, or HMM, is a shipping company based in South Korea. It was founded in 1976 and quickly grew to be the second largest shipping company in South Korea and eventually among the largest such companies in the world. HMM integrates logistics with shipping, has a large fleet of diverse vessels, and is capable of transporting specific types of cargo and specialized cargo.
The company has four international headquarters, several subsidiaries, over 50 sea routes, and more than 100 ports of call. In terms of container capacity, HMM is the 15th largest company in the world. International shipping is a dangerous industry and navigating and operating these large vessels can lead to accidents including collisions and oil spills. When these accidents do happen the parent maritime company must take responsibility for any injured workers and provide them with adequate compensation.
HMM began in 1976 as Asia Merchant Marine and with three tankers in its initial feet. Within one year the new company was offering bulk cargo and tramp service and tug service and had added two more bulk carriers to its small fleet. Regular liner service from East Asia to the Middle East began in 1978 and the company was containerized and shipping container cargo to the Middle East by 1979.
Over several more decades the company would continue to grow, adding services, diversified operations, and more vessels to its fleet. One of the specialized services was transport of automobiles and the company purchased and used the first car carrier in Korea. Specialized transportation of ore and other raw materials also began in the 1980s. The name of the company was changed to Hyundai Merchant Marine in 1982.
As HMM grew it added more routes and international offices including those in Tokyo, Jakarta, London, and Hong Kong. By 1990 the company was offering full intermodal services in the U.S. and had added the transportation of liquefied natural gas to its list of services. In the company’s most recent history it has faced some serious financial issues and has been rumored to be in the process of being taken over by Maersk, the huge Danish shipping company.
HMM has a large fleet of 64 container ships and 23 tankers. The extensive container fleet allows the company to focus on container shipping and includes vessels with TEU capacities ranging from around 2,000 to over 10,000. In total the company fleet has a TEU capacity of nearly 500,000. The tanker fleet consists of 16 VLCCs, or very large crude carriers, nine clean tankers, and four chemical tankers. About half of the tanker fleet is committed to regular service contracts, while the others are reserved for on-the-spot transportation needs.
HMM’s focus has long been on container shipping, although the company also engages in bulk shipping and specialized cargo shipping as well as intermodal services. The container shipping segment of the company follows over 60 routes around the globe and is active in more than 100 ports, collaborating with many of the world’s major shipping companies. Routes for HMM container shipping include Trans-Pacific, Inter-Asia, and Trans-Atlantic routes. Specialty services include shipping dangerous cargo, oversized cargo, and reefer cargo.
Tanker service includes regular shipping of crude oil to and from the Middle East, Asia, and Africa using the fleet’s VLCCs. Smaller tankers in the fleet move chemicals between Asian locations. The tanker services also include dry cargo shipping, including coal and iron ore and liquid chemicals including both petroleum and non-petroleum products.
In 2007 HMM added a heavy lift service to its operations. The company provides transportation of heavy project cargo to locations in East Asia, the Middle East, and India. This includes lifting and transporting super heavy equipment for things like wind power, petrochemical projects, and power plant facilities.
Cargo and container shipping is risky business. It takes a lot of planning and care to make sure that accidents don’t occur. Even with the best safety and environmental policies in place, most shipping companies experience accidents, as has HMM. When these accidents occur, sensitive ecosystems can be damaged and workers can be hurt and even killed in the worst cases.
HMM had an accident in 1991 that was devastating to the environment and was sued by the United States as a result. The incident occurred on October second of that year when one of its ships ran aground at the Shumagin Islands not far from Kodiak, Alaska. A tank holding 200,000 gallons of bunker oil fractured and spilled into the water. The ship remained grounded for days and the spill expanded to huge proportions. The U.S. won damages from HMM to contain and clean up the spill.
Another common type of accidents that shipping companies like HMM experience is a collision. Large container and carrier ships are difficult to control and collisions between them are not uncommon. In many cases no one is hurt, but workers are at risk of falling overboard, falling on the ship, being struck by cargo, and other types of accidents and resulting injuries in these collisions.
In 2011 the HMM ship Discovery collided with another container ship in Singapore. Visibility may have played a role in the accident, as it was low in conditions of heavy rain. In this case the two ships were lucky to have no injuries to people and no spills, but both ships were significantly damaged. Another collision occurred in the East China Sea in 2004 when the Dominion collided with another container ship. Again, despite damage to the ships no one was hurt.
Maritime Worker Injuries
Although no one was injured in the above examples of maritime accidents, there was a potential for it. In the latter case, workers on board the vessels were found to have been working more hours than is allowed. This could easily have contributed to the accident and could have caused people to be seriously hurt. It is the responsibility of a maritime company to keep its workers safe and that includes ensuring they are not fatigued on the job. There are so many way sin which accidents on these ships can happen and workers can be hurt or killed. Precautions must be taken, but are not always.
If you are injured while working for a maritime company, you can seek money to help cover the costs associated with your injuries. Maritime laws are in place to ensure that you have that right. Make sure that you consult with and take the advice of a maritime lawyer, though. Without that professional advice, you may not get all that you are owed in the event of a maritime accident.