Antwerp steps up radioactivity checks on ships from Japan

30th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Antwerp has stepped up checks on ships that have sailed in the vicinity of Japan to avert the risk of radioactive contamination from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, the Belgian port said Wednesday.

Ships arriving in Antwerp, Europe's second largest port after Rotterdam in The Netherlands and among the world's 15 biggest, are required to present a list of the last 10 ports where they have called, the port authority said in a statement.

"If one of these is a port in the Japan region, then the authorities may carry out additional onboard measurements to check for radioactivity. If any abnormal readings are found, then the ships will be further monitored by FANC (Belgium's nuclear watchdog)," it said.

The "extra precautions" are being taken "as a consequence of the nuclear disaster (in Fukushima)," it said.

They aim to eliminate "any risk to public health, both for port personnel and persons in the surrounding area," the statement said, while stressing that "there is no cause for concern."

Japanese goods transiting Antwerp "are mainly containers and cars" and make up a "relatively small" percentage of the port's total volume, the statement said.

In addition, "all containers in the port are routinely scanned for radioactivity on a daily basis using the Megaports system," set up in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States, it said.

Other European ports such as Hamburg, in northern Germany, have also taken precautionary measures with ships coming from Japanese waters, the Financial Times Deutschland reported Wednesday, notably after the Chinese port of Xiamen turned away a ship emitting higher than normal radioactivity readings last week.

Japan has struggled to contain its nuclear emergency since a massive tsunami hit the Fukushima plant after the March 11 earthquake, with radioactive substances entering the air, sea and foodstuffs from the region.

© 2011 AFP

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