Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Shipping lines suspend calls to worst-hit Japanese ports

( Shipping line services to Japan’s ports worst-hit by the recent disaster have been suspended, while other major terminals continue to suffer from congestion.

Maersk Line said services to and from Sendai, Hachinohe and Onahama had been suspended following the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit the country on Friday.

And it warned that services to the ports of Tokyo and Yokohama could be delayed because of congestion caused by their closure on Friday and Saturday.

“We are following the authorities’ recommendations on safety matters,” the Danish carrier said. “There are no commercial restrictions in booking with Maersk Line to or via Japan.”

“Depending on how the situation develops, it may be decided to deviate vessels. Specific contingencies will be communicated on a vessel basis. We are following the situation intensively.”

OOCL said its services to all Japanese ports, except Sendai, Hitachinaka and Kashima, were returning to normal.

Bookings to those three ports would be suspended until further notice, it said.

“All cargo on its way to the affected areas, will be discharged at the ports of Tokyo or Yokohama until the situation becomes more stable.”

It added that “force majeure” had been declared for one vessel, the NYK Themis (pictured), that had been carrying cargo destined for the port of Sendai.

The line said the cargo would be discharged at Tokyo, “and it is customer’s responsibility to make arrangements for cargo delivery. OOCL will contact affected customers individually for details”.

It added: “We are still evaluating the impact of the export cargo from the affected areas. We will keep you informed of the latest updates of the situation.”

Hapag-Lloyd said its staff and offices, major vendor facilities and cargo operations were largely unaffected, but bookings had been suspended for Sendai, Hachinohe, Ofunato, Onahama and Hitachinaka.

“At this point, we do not expect any vessel diversions, however, schedule delays are possible and we will keep [customers] informed about any schedule changes,” it said.

CMA CGM said its services were not affected, but vessels would avoid the North-east of Japan.

The brief closure of all of Japan’s ports was expected to cost the country more than US$3.4 billion in lost seaborne trade, according to IFW sister publication Lloyd’s List Intelligence.

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