Some ocean carriers eliminated stops at the Tokyo and Nagoya ports and other ocean carriers added cargo restrictions and changed ship routings around Japan as the country struggled with badly damaged infrastructure and ongoing radiation leaks from a crippled nuclear plant.
Japan's Coast Guard told ship operators to steer at least 50 miles away from the damaged Fukushima plant to avoid potential radiation contamination, and container line APL said it had ordered its ships to keep at least 200 nautical miles away from the area.
The mounting precautions and restrictions were part of a growing transportation industry response as Japan reels from the impact of last week's devastating earthquake and tsunami. Carriers have eliminated services to the badly damaged or destroyed ports in the northeast around Sendai, but new notices Thursday and Friday signaled the impact on Japan's infrastructure was growing and reaching into the more industrial region in the south.
Japanese carrier MOL said it was "operating our vessels with utmost attention, following governmental standards and warnings to protect our vessels from the radioactive contamination.
"We are monitoring our vessels for 24 hours every day at the Safety Operating Supporting Center and send out an alert to every vessel which has a possibility to sail close to the area in advance," said MOL spokesman Kazuri Nakamura.
OOCL announced the service suspension at Tokyo and Tokyo after Hapag-Lloyd, which operates vessels on a joint service, dropped calls in what appeared to be the first significant services canceled at ports well outside the region directly affected by the tsunami and the nuclear dsiaster. Yokohama joined that list over the weekend and other carriers added new restrictions on cargo operations.
APL's Japan offices were open and operations continuing at terminals at the ports of Kobe and Yokohama but the carrier said it was turning down bookings from prefectures that were the most damaged in the disasters.
"We are declining bookings to Hitachinaka and Kashima in Ibaraki prefecture; Ishinomake, Ofunato, Shiogama and Sendai in Miyagi prefecture; Onahama and Shirakawa in Fukushima prefecture; and Hachinohe in Aomori because operational facilities are inaccessible or unavailable due to earthquake or tsunami damage," APL said. Road and rail networks have been disrupted.