Monday, March 28, 2011

Container Shipping Avoids Japanese Contamination

Lines Change Schedules in a Bid to Miss Radiation
Shipping News Feature

JAPAN – Some shipping companies are avoiding areas they consider potentially dangerous after the disastrous effects of this months earthquake and subsequent tsunami. The damage to several nuclear reactors has met with scepticism by some and abject terror by others causing a mixed reaction from bulk and container lines alike. German carriers were the first to publicly announce changes to established schedules with container line Hapag Lloyd changing its freight routings from Tokyo, Nagoya and Yokohama whilst retaining the calls into Kobe.

Despite announcing no expected vessel diversions immediately following the disaster Hapag swiftly revised this as soon as a radiation problem was declared a possibility. Within three days plans had changed and the port calls abandoned. Another German carrier seemingly also decided to follow its government’s guidelines of not travelling within 250 kilometres of the danger area (the official safety zone only extends 100 kilometres) as Claus-Peter Offen also suspended services.

Maersk Line by contrast have continued to operate all their Japanese schedule, including Yokohama and Tokyo, only suspending services to Sendai, Onahama and Hachinohe, which Maersk serve via feeder services, due to damage caused by the original disasters.

Mediterranean Shipping (MSC) are continuing to accept bookings for seven of the ports they regularly serve, only refusing shipments to the three Maersk have had to avoid plus Hachinohe, Offunato, Hitachinaka and Kashima, again due to tsunami damage.

CMA CGM have issued a press release today saying they are continuing to operate all scheduled calls to all the major ports. So that’s the top three container carriers in the world all continuing to trade as normally as is possible despite none of them having the emotional links which companies like Mitsui OSK (MOL)and Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha (K Line) who have their origins in the country, are bound to have, and who also have continued to trade normally.

So far there have been mixed results when radiation contamination has been looked for by foreign importing countries. All shipments received by US ports have been thoroughly examined and every one so far has received the all clear. By contrast the Chinese say there has been a measure of contamination to cargo aboard a freighter aircraft and the authorities refusedg entry to a Maersk vessel saying it was contaminated. This however has not been confirmed by any other parties so far.

What is certain is that with the recent findings of seawater contaminated to a level exceeding 1,000 millisieverts per hour coming from the region of the Number two reactor at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant this crisis is far from over and the likelihood is that more cancellations to scheduled shipping services will occur before normality returns.

Photo: Before the disaster – an aerial view of reactors 1 to 4 at Fukushima.