Containers clutter roads in Tokyo Port area

The Tokyo Port area is expected to host many facilities for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, but construction plans are being threatened by the many cargo containers left on nearby roads, causing heavy traffic jams and even fatal accidents.

The Tokyo metropolitan government plans to take drastic measures to deal with the situation. 119 containers left daily.

Located near Tokyo Port, the Oi Container Terminal in Shinagawa Ward is the largest container berth in Tokyo. A number of containers and container truck trailers have been left on a nearby road, partially blocking three of its four lanes on each side of the road.

According to the metropolitan government, operators often leave containers at the site after removing the goods inside them, detaching them from trucks to take on further containers. Others use the location to store containers temporarily before passing them on to other operators.

Such practices have been common since about 2010. With growing imports and exports to China and other Asian nations, the volume of container cargo handled at Tokyo Port has been increasing. Calculating each container as 20 feet (six meters) long, the number reached a record 4.35 million containers in 2013.

As a result, the number of abandoned containers has also been increasing. According to surveys conducted in 2011 and 2012 by the metropolitan government, an average of 119 containers and trailers were left daily at Oi Container Terminal and other sites.

The roads near Tokyo Port are harbor roads, equipped for the distribution of goods, and therefore many sections of the roads are exempt from the Road Traffic Law. Legal prohibitions against stationary vehicles on an ordinary road cannot be enforced on most of the roads in the area.

Traffic accidents caused by such containers are also on the rise.

In March 2012, the driver of a passenger car died in a collision with a bus after the bus dodged part of a trailer that had been left on a road. In total, there have been three fatal accidents caused by left containers since 2006.

In addition to containers, cargo trucks waiting for processing also cause heavy traffic around the Oi terminal.

Around the year-end and on Monday evenings, when larger volumes of cargo are handled, container trucks form lines over a kilometer long, blocking use of the roads by other vehicles.

Amid mounting fear over the likelihood of more accidents due to increasing numbers of trailers and trucks, the Metropolitan Police Department in June asked the metropolitan government to secure parking sites for trailers so they would not be parked on streets.

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