• Kyodo

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The Ibaraki Prefectural Government plans to bar ships that are uninsured, in need of repairs or fail to meet safety standards from docking at ports under its control, according to prefectural officials.

The decision for the ban, to be applied to both Japanese and foreign ships, comes in the wake of recent incidents in which ships have run aground or been abandoned in Japanese waters. It is in line with the prefectural government’s port authority powers.

Last month, a North Korean freighter ran aground on a breakwater just outside Hitachi port in Ibaraki Prefecture. Japanese authorities have spent nearly 500 million yen removing fuel oil that leaked from the 3,144-ton Chil Song and tire chips from its cargo hold.

The officials said the ban is the first of its kind nationwide, using as its basic criterion a ship’s level of compliance with safety standards.

Until now, few ports in Japan have denied entry to ships. One of the main exceptions is a port-entry policy the Kobe Municipal Government has enforced since 1975 under which foreign naval ships must certify that they carry no nuclear material or weapons.

The Ibaraki plan calls for the prefecture to enforce its ban at all ports under its jurisdiction, including Hitachi and Kashima, officials said.

Under Ibaraki’s plan, ships lacking proper radio equipment and navigational charts will be barred, and uninsured ships will need a warranty from agents tasked with facilitating port entry procedures, according to the officials.

The Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry has expressed concern that the move may be discriminatory, possibly violating the nation’s port law. But the prefecture stressed the need for some kind of defense against unsafe ships.

Although the ban is not yet in place, Ibaraki officials said the prefecture is eyeing, among other measures, asking the Japan Coast Guard to inspect ships that appear not to have been properly maintained.

In an apparent related development, a North Korean freighter left Ibaraki’s Kashima port over the weekend after failing to dock there due to the absence of a ship agent.

The 1,800-ton Bon De San was anchored between Tuesday and Friday and did not request port entry, the authorities said. It was planning to load about 170 tons of tires.

Local ship agents refused to sign contracts with the Bon De San, fearing they would get into trouble, the authorities said without elaborating.

During inspections at Tokuyama port in Yamaguchi Prefecture in July, the ship lacked proper charts, radio equipment and insurance.

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