Supply lines in Danger as Shipping Lines Shun Japan

The economic turmoil of the crisis in Japan have cascaded into another critical bridge in the global supply chain: freight forwarding.

Fearing the potential impact on crew, cargo ships and tens of millions of dollars, some of the world's largest container shipping companies have restricted or banned their ships from calling at ports in Tokyo Bay on concerns about radiation from the damaged plant Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power.

Meanwhile, the ports in China are beginning to demand strict radiation checks on ships from Japan. And in California, on Friday, the first ship to reach the port of Long Beach since the earthquake in Japan was arrested and scanned for radiation by the Coast Guard and federal agents Customs before being allowed to dock.

Big Japanese ports much farther south of Tokyo, Osaka and Kobe, as are loading and unloading of cargo. But the ports of Tokyo Bay in Tokyo and Yokohama in Japan are usually the busiest two, up to 40 percent of cargo containers foreign nation. If other shipping companies will join those already avoiding the Tokyo area, the radiation contamination of Fukushima Daiichi extends 140 miles north, delays in goods entering and leaving Japan only worsen.

Fears of the shipping industry have increased since theofficial port of Xiamen, China, earlier this week detected radiation on a container ship owned by large Mitsui OSK Lines and quarantined the ship. The ship had sailed on the northeast coast of Japan and have had no closer than 80 miles to the damaged nuclear power plant, theofficial Xinhua news agency said Saturday afternoon that the vessel had left a station docking port on Wednesday afternoon and anchored briefly Wed

Hapag-Lloyd, a line of German container shipping is one of the largest in the world,a service stop in Tokyo and Yokohama after the tsunami swamped Fukushima Daiichi. The sender has not resumed service to these ports.

"We put safety ahead of everything else," said Eva Gjersvik, senior director of the company for corporate communications, adding that the company was reviewing whether to resume daily sailings to Tokyo.

Reuters reported that another German shipper, Claus-Peter Offen, has also repeatedly called for Tokyo and Yokohama.

OOCL, a shipping company based in Hong Kong, said Friday evening that the company had decided to stop all traffic bound for Tokyo and Yokohama.

OOCL Tokyo-Osaka will be bound containers instead and send them overland from there, "said Stanley Shen, head of investor relations. The company has also developed contingency plans to prevent its containers to travel by land, even in Tokyo in the event of rising radiation levels in the Japanese capital, said Shen.

Commercial vessels can be scrapped if even temporarily quarantined for radioactivity, because they would face additional checks of the Coast Guard for years subsequent destination, "said Basil M. Karatzas, the Chief Project and Financial Compass Maritime Services, a brokerage are shipped in Teaneck, NJ

The additional inspections made it difficult to maintain a schedule. "Shippers in the future try to avoid the vessel because of the likelihood it will be delayed again," Karatzas said.

It is not only commercial vessels that give the region a wide berth of radiation.

A senior nuclear said Friday evening that the U.S. Navy had moved nuclear-powered vessels such as aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan away from the plant in Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power after the officers were concerned that the radiation of the plant could enter the air ducts of ships.

The concern is that radiation pose a threat to ships' crews, but even traces of contamination ducts could create problems in the highly sensitive equipment aboard nuclear-powered vessels that is designed to detect any indication of a radioactive leak embedded systems, said the executive, who insisted on anonymity to protect business relationships.

Senders, even if they can avoid exposure to radiation, be aware that goods from Japan is now subject to further delays.