Japanese and foreign shipping firms urged the Japanese government to take further action to minimize the effects on their business of radiation fears amid the ongoing nuclear crisis in the country.
The request was made Friday at the first liaison conference of Japanese government officials and shipping industry representatives held in Yokohama City, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism said Monday.
The meeting brought together about 140 people, nearly three times the number initially expected.
The participants included people from shipping firms, the Japanese Shipowners' Association, the Japan Foreign Steamship Association and the Japan Port and Harbor Association.
"People from more than 20 domestic and foreign shipping firms were in attendance at the meeting," Kinya Ichimura, the ministry's security and emergency management official, told the Journal of Commerce.
Ichimura declined to give the names of the shipping firms, but he acknowledged they "include the world's top five."
He also said that some foreign embassies in Japan were represented at the meeting although he declined to identify those embassies.
"We explained the current situation, heard participants' opinions and held discussions with them," Ichimura said.
According to Ichimura, shipping industry participants pointed out that the issue of foreign shipping firms avoiding port calls in Japan is improving. But they complained that the Japanese government does not have as strong a sense of crisis as they do over the issue.
They then specifically requested the Japanese government to conduct radiation checks on individual vessels leaving Japanese ports and issue certificates to prove that they are safe, he said.
"Shipping industry people fear that concerns might linger in the medium and long term about the safety of vessels that have made port calls in Japan even once in the past," he said.
Ichimura said the transport ministry will discuss the industry request with other Japanese ministries concerned because "it is not a matter the ministry alone can handle."
The containment of radioactive materials released from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant will take several months, a senior Japanese government official said Sunday in the first indication of any time line.
"Containing the radioactive substances within several months is one goal," Goshi Hosono, an aide to Prime Minister Naoto Kan, said on a Fuji TV program.
-- Contact Hisane Masaki at firstname.lastname@example.org.