Beirut Blast, Lebanon, Ammonium Nitrate, Beirut

Beirut Blast, Lebanon

Beirut's accidental cargo: How an unscheduled port visit led to disaster

Beirut's accidental cargo: How an unscheduled port visit led to disaster

6/8/2020 7:34:00 PM

Beirut 's accidental cargo: How an unscheduled port visit led to disaster

The chemicals that went up in flames in Beirut 's deadliest peace-time explosion arrived in the Lebanese capital seven years ago on a leaky ...

Prokoshev identified the ship's owner as Russian businessman Igor Grechushkin. Attempts to contact Grechushkin were unsuccessful.The ammonium nitrate was sold by Georgian fertiliser maker Rustavi Azot, and was to be delivered to a Mozambique explosives maker, Fabrica de Explosivos.

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A senior representative for Fabrica de Explosivos did not immediately respond when sent a request for comment on LinkedIn.Levan Burdiladze, the Rustavi Azot plant director, told Reuters that his company had only operated the chemical factory for the last three years and so he could not confirm whether the ammonium nitrate was produced there.

He called the decision to store the material in Beirut port a"gross violation of safe storage measures, considering that ammonium nitrate loses its useful properties in six months."READ: Lebanon gives investigators 4 days to find culprits of Beirut explosion as international aid arrives

Initial Lebanese investigations into what happened have pointed to inaction and negligence in the handling of the potentially dangerous chemical.Lebanon's Cabinet on Wednesday agreed to place all Beirut port officials who have overseen storage and security since 2014 under house arrest, ministerial sources said.

The head of Beirut port and the head of customs said that several letters were sent to the judiciary asking for the material be removed, but no action was taken.The ministry of justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.Boris Prokoshev (R), captain of cargo vessel Rhosus, and boatswain Boris Musinchak pose next to a freight hold loaded with ammonium nitrate in the port of Beirut, Lebanon, in a summer 2014 photograph. Picture taken in summer 2014. REUTERS/Personal archives of Boris Musinchak

According to Prokoshev, the ship had been leaking but was seaworthy when it sailed into Beirut in September 2013. However, he said Lebanese authorities paid little attention to the ammonium nitrate, which had been stacked in the hull in large sacks."I feel sorry for the people (killed or injured in the blast). But local authorities, the Lebanese, should be punished. They did not care about the cargo at all," he said.

The abandoned Rhosus sank where she was moored in Beirut harbour, according to a May, 2018 email from a lawyer to Prokoshev, which said it had gone down"recently". Read more: CNA »

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