The port of Antwerp, Europe's second largest container hub, said it is taking "heightened precautions" over ships arriving from Japan that may have been contaminated by radioactive fallout from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant.
"Additional measures are being taken to exclude any risk to public health, both for port personnel and persons in the surrounding area," the Port Authority, the Customs service and the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control said in a joint statement.
All ships arriving at the Belgian port must present a list of the last 10 ports they called at under the terms of the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code introduced after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S.
If one of these ports is in the "Japan region" the Antwerp authorities may carry out additional onboard measurements to check for radioactivity. If any abnormal readings are found, the ships will be further monitored by the FANC.
Containers and automobiles make up the bulk of traffic from Japan, but they account for a relatively small share of total throughput, the Port Authority said.
All containers in the port are routinely scanned for radioactivity on a daily basis using Megaports detector portals which were installed by Belgian Customs after the 9/11 attacks.
The Port Authority, Customs and FANC emphasized "there is no need for concern."
Dutch and German port authorities also are preparing plans to scan container ships coming from Japan for potential radioactive contamination.
The first container ships to leave Japanese ports since the earthquake and tsunami on March 11 are due to arrive in Europe's top three box ports, Rotterdam, Antwerp and Hamburg in mid-April.
Japan exported just over 527,000 20-foot equivalent units to Europe in 2010, out of total Asia-Europe traffic of 13.5 million TEUs, according to Container Trade Statistics.
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