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Impact on worldwide shipping as a result of radiation leakage in Japan

The earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011 has caused severe radiation leakage which affected worldwide trade and shipping. A Japanese merchant vessel “MOL Presence”, sailing to California, first put into Tokyo then proceeded to Xiamen. Unfortunately, abnormal radiation levels were detected on the deck and on the containers stored on the deck when the vessel entered Xiamen in China’s Fujian Province in the east of the country. As a result, the Chinese authorities refused to allow the vessel to berth at Xiamen and recommended the ship be cleaned before being allowed to offload cargo there.

The ship thus departed Xiamen to undergo a thorough cleaning in Kobe, thereafter departing to Hong Kong where it received permission to berth after passing local testing.

Mainland China has tightened its radiation testing after the serious radiation leakage in Japan. Therefore, cargo owners should take into account any unexpected circumstances that may arise and build in buffers when planning sailing schedules.

In the above case, if the cargo owners foresee a delay in the voyage and expect the transition of goods to exceed the contractual period and/or insurance cover, they should contact their insurance company to negotiate an extension of their cargo insurance policy. For more details regarding duration of cargo insurance cover, please click here.

To further elaborate on the impact of radiation leakage, cargo owners should take note that radiation contamination is a common general exclusion in cargo insurance policy. It is listed under the “Institute radioactive contamination, chemical, biological, bio-chemical and electromagnetic weapons exclusion clause (CL 370)” which states that any loss caused by radiation contamination will not be covered, using specific clause shown below for reference:


“…1. In no case shall this insurance cover loss damage liability or expense directly or indirectly caused by or contributed to by or arising from…1.2 the radioactive, toxic, explosive or of any nuclear installation, reactor or other nuclear assembly or nuclear component thereof…”

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