Tuesday, March 29, 2011

OOCL Reroutes Calls to Tokyo Bay Over Radiation Concerns

Orient Overseas Container Line, the Tokyo-based carrier announced Friday, it is diverting all Tokyo and Yokohama vessel calls to the more southerly port of Osaka due to concerns about radiation from a leaking nuclear power plant in the northeast.

OOCL is the fourth and latest ocean carrier to stop calls at the Tokyo and Yokohama ports, which suffered only minor damage and have remained open since shortly after the March 11 Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

German carriers Hapag-Lloyd and Claus-Peter Offen have also canceled calls to both ports, which are located in Tokyo Bay about 150 miles south of the tsunami-damaged Fukushima power plant. Carrier Hamburg Sud had stopped calling at both ports shortly after the March 11 double-disaster, but restarted service last week.

Other major lines, including APL, CMA CGM and Maersk continue to call at both ports.
Tokyo and Yokohama ports are the nation's two busiest container ports, handling more than a third of Japan’s foreign-container cargo.

The Fukushima nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan was severely compromised during the March 11 earthquake/tsunami leading to a shutdown of the cooling systems at the six Fukushima reactor buildings. Despite the best efforts of plant employees since the disaster struck to gain control of and/or cool the reactors, radiation has continued to steadily leak from the power plant.

Radiation levels in Tokyo are running on average about 300 percent higher each day for the past week than those recorded in the capitol city on the day prior to the earthquake and tsunami, though the average daily dose for residents is only about 20 percent of what a person receiving a medical x-ray would experience.

An undated statement on the website of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s Bureau of Port and Harbor acknowledged the growing concerns over radiation levels in the Tokyo Bay area while downplaying their impact.

"The current numerical measurement doesn’t indicate any effect on health. So, please set your heart at ease,” said the statement.