The statement was made by counsel for the trustees charged with untangling the affairs of South Korean's biggest ocean carrier, the bankrupt Hanjin Shipping.
Claims totalling US$10.5 billion have been made, but the company has recovered only $220 million, equating to a payout of only $0.02 to each dollar owed, reported IHS Media.
When the "initial distribution will be made to creditors" is uncertain, said lawyer Jin Han Kim.
Judge John Sherwood, sitting in US Bankruptcy Court in Newark, held numerous hearings on problems raised by shippers, logistics providers and creditors.
Others sought help in securing some 500,000 containers still stranded when the company - once the once the world's seventh-largest carrier - became insolvent.
Judge Sherwood on July 25 earlier granted a request from Columbia Group of Liberty Corner, New Jersey, to sell 35 Hanjin containers it was storing at its Port Elizabeth terminal.The company said it struck an agreement with Hanjin to store the containers after the carrier's bankruptcy filing, for payment of $2 a day per TEU, and an additional $200 per box handling fee.
But Hanjin never took the containers away and now owes about $36,000. "The continued storage of containers at Columbia's marine terminal has affected its ability to conduct business in an efficient manner as the containers have taken up valuable space," said the company.
It asked the judge for approval to sell the containers, estimated to go for $1,000 each.