The transport ministry may draft legislation to prevent ships posing safety hazards from entering Japanese ports, transport minister Chikage Ogi said Tuesday.
Ogi’s comment came in response to an incident last year in which the North Korean freighter Chil Song ran aground on the breakwater outside Hitachi port in Ibaraki Prefecture.
The prefectural government wants the ship removed and is asking that damages be paid to local fishermen affected by leaking fuel oil from the vessel.
The Ibaraki Prefectural Government announced Jan. 28 that it plans to bar all ships that are uninsured, in need of repairs or fail to meet safety standards from docking at ports under its control. Ministry officials meanwhile have questioned the legality of such a move.
At least 10 foreign ships are currently stranded off the nation’s coast. None of the shipowners has liability insurance.
Ogi said her ministry will consider introducing new legislative measures to ensure the safety of coastal areas.
The current law covering harbor facilities guarantees that ports that are open to foreign trade must indiscriminately allow ships to utilize their facilities.
“(As such incidents) cause peril and trouble to fishermen and everyone in the neighborhood,” she said, “we must consider whether (local governments) should be able to refuse entry of (problematic) ships into their ports.”
The North Korean ship Man Gyong Bong-92, which allegedly operates as a key conduit for Pyongyang’s espionage activities while plying between Wonsan and Niigata, is another reason why the ministry should draft legislative measures, she said.
But a senior ministry official in charge of the matter said that although the ministry is accelerating efforts to sort out legislative matters pertaining to the issue, it would be difficult to introduce the legislation during the current Diet session, which ends in June.
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