Ships back to Japan’s ports


Ships are starting to flow back to Japan’s quake-damaged ports, the country’s transport ministry said on Tuesday, despite the lingering nuclear crisis.

An average of 15 vessels per day was docking at 14 major ports in Japan’s northeast as operations ramped up following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the ministry said on its website.

That remained a small fraction of the 144 ships that entered the ports each day during the same period last year.

“Most facilities need restoration works and some piers have draft or loading restrictions,” it said.
By Tuesday, only 35% of the 367 shipping berths at the damaged ports were operational, the ministry said.

Last month’s disaster did less damage to Japan’s port infrastructure than initially expected, with most of the supply bottlenecks located at railways, roads and factories.

It was unclear if the ships docking at the ports were commercial or carrying material for the country’s reconstruction effort.

Foreign crew members remain hesitant to travel near Japan’s damaged Fukushima nuclear complex, forcing shippers to use Japanese vessels instead to transport goods, senior industry executives said last week.

Japan has restricted seaborne traffic 30km from the nuclear plant, while many shipping companies have imposed a minimum exclusion zone ranging from 80 to 100km.