Failed nuclear power threatens Japanese trade

Tokyo, Japan: Serious bottlenecks are likely for Japanese trade as more shipping lines decide to avoid key ports in Tokyo Bay over fear of radiation levels.

The ports of Yokohama and Tokyo are affected following concerns over radiation leaking from the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

German container line Hapag-Lloyd cancelled calls at Tokyo on Saturday and said it was” putting safety first”.  Shipping line, Claus-Peter Offen, has also stopped its calls at Tokyo and Yokohama and OOCL said on Friday that it was diverting its Tokyo and Yokohama-bound cargo to Osaka.

Tim Wickmann, chief executive of Maersk Line subsidiary MCC Transport, said container shipments to eastern Japan could come to a standstill if carriers decided Tokyo was unsafe.

Tokyo and Yokohama are Japan’s busiest ports, together handling some 40% of the nation’s foreign container cargo.

Ports further south, including Osaka and Kobe, were continuing cargo operations, but on Monday only 30% of Japan’s 208 shipping berths were reported open.

Shipping leaving Japan is also experiencing problems. Last week, the containership MOL Presence was denied entry into the port of Xiamen in China, after readings suggested it was emitting “abnormal” amounts of radiation. The vessel from Tokyo had passed within 124km of Fukushima.

However, the first shipment of containers from Japan to arrive in the US was given the all-clear.  According to US Customs and Border Protection, technicians conducted radiation tests on 355 containers discharged at the port of Los Angeles from the vessel APL Korea. All the boxes were cleared for delivery throughout the US.

Higher than normal radiation levels were detected on a Japanese cargo aircraft that arrived in the Chinese port city of Dalian last week, according to local reports. A radiation level of 22 times higher than normal was reportedly found coming from the cargo on board by the Dalian Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Burea.