Shipping Lines Shift Vessels from Devastated Beirut Port

Date: Monday, August 10, 2020
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Shipping Lines Shift Vessels from Devastated Beirut Port

Shipping companies are diverting vessels from the heavily damaged Beirut port following the massive explosion that began in a waterfront warehouse and killed more than 100 people while devastating Lebanon’s main trading gateway.

CMA CGM SA, which had a vessel at the port about a mile from the blast site, said one of its staffers was missing. The French container line and several other operators said their Beirut offices were heavily damaged or destroyed in the shock wave that rolled across the busy port area.

CMA CGM said the Lyra vessel, which has a capacity of 11,400 containers, wasn’t damaged.

The shipping line, which has significant operations in Lebanon, said in a statement it was working “to guarantee perfect business continuity and to maintain the supply of primary necessities to the country.”

A spokesman for Germany’s Hapag-Lloyd AG said the container carrier’s office was “completely destroyed,” but that staffers had left the station 20 minutes before the blast and were not injured.

Several carriers shifted Beirut-bound ships to other Mediterranean ports, including several that were rerouted to the Northern Lebanese port of Tripoli.

Tuesday’s blast appeared to originate in a warehouse holding 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate. Lebanese authorities are investigating why so much of the highly combustible material, which had been held at the site for several years, was stored for so long near Beirut’s heavily populated city center.

The explosives originally entered Beirut’s port on board the Moldovan-flagged Rhosus, which set sail for Mozambique from Georgia in 2013, according to a senior Lebanese politician, an army official and a Middle East security official.

Shiparrested.com, a shipping industry newsletter, wrote in 2015 said that the vessel was forced to dock in 2013 in Beirut due to technical problems and was later abandoned there by its owners.

Port authorities deposited the explosives in a warehouse in the port and were supposed to dispose of them safely, according to the newsletter.

The Lebanese army official said the port authority and customs repeatedly informed the judiciary of the dangers, but no action was taken to dispose of the explosives.

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