Maersk, Hapag-Lloyd Cancel Calls at Japanese Ports Because of Earthquake

A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S and Hapag- Lloyd AG have halted services to some Japanese ports because of the earthquake and nuclear radiation concerns.

Maersk Line, owner of the world’s largest container fleet, has stopped taking orders for the ports of Sendai, Onahama and Hachinohe due to damage. Hamburg, Germany-based Hapag-Lloyd is avoiding Tokyo, Yokohama and Nagoya because of the crippled nuclear reactor in Fukushima.

Tokyo has suffered power shortages and worries over radiation since the magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami on March 11 crippled the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant 220 kilometers (135 miles) north of Tokyo. Hapag-Lloyd is shipping cargo from other harbors, such as Kobe, rather than using the three ports closest to the reactor.

“The carrier is unable to serve various Japanese ports due to the current situation and the according recommendations of relevant authorities,” Hapag-Lloyd said in a statement on its website dated March 22. The company did not respond to requests over the last two days for updated information.

Sendai, Onahama and Hachinohe, which Maersk Line serves by hiring feeder ships from other companies to transport its containers from Japanese ports it serves, have been damaged by the tsunami. Maersk Line, which has a global market share of about 15 percent, isn’t currently taking orders for cargo to those destinations, spokesman John Churchill said yesterday.

Exclusion Zone

Maersk Line is still serving the six Japanese ports the company sails to directly with its own ships, Churchill said. Maersk Line has 17 weekly calls to Japanese ports, including eight to Yokohama and one to Tokyo.

“As long as it’s considered safe, Maersk Line vessels will continue to call in Japan,” Churchill, who is based in Copenhagen, said. “We have a long tradition and a strong relationship with Japan and we take our responsibility to secure the lifeline of its more than 127 million people seriously.”

Maersk Line has created a 140-nautical mile exclusion zone around the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant, the company said earlier this week. In practical terms, the zone doesn’t affect its ship routes as they wouldn’t normally sail in that area, Churchill said.

Mediterranean Shipping Co, the world’s second-largest container shipping company, and CMA CGM SA, the world’s No. 3, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Some 200,000 standard containers were transported by Hamburg shipping companies through Japan last year. The port has six liner services transporting goods between Japan and Hamburg, and some services remain between the German harbor and Tokyo and Yokohama, said Bengt van Beuningen, a spokesman for Port of Hamburg Marketing.

Calls Resumed

While Hapag-Lloyd is avoiding Tokyo, other shipping lines based in Hamburg continue to serve the Japanese capital. Hamburg Sued, the shipping company owned by Germany’s Oetker family, resumed calls at Tokyo and Yokohama ports with vessels on March 24, after canceling calls at those ports last week, it said in a statement on its website March 23.

“In all the decisions to be taken, the overriding factor for us is to ensure the well-being of our mariners and, at the same time, ensure that Japan is not cut off from the international flow of merchandise,” said Joachim Konrad, deputy chairman of the executive board of Hamburg Sued.

Hapag-Lloyd is screening its containers with goods from affected areas for potential radiation contamination, it said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Niklas Magnusson in Hamburg at nmagnusson1@bloomberg.net Christian Wienberg in Copenhagen at cwienberg@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Angela Cullen at acullen8@bloomberg.net

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