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How did 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate make it into the Port of Beirut?

In the aftermath of these devastating explosions in Beirut, Lebanese officials have pointed the finger in an inventory of ammonium nitrate in the town’s port as the most probable cause for its explosion dispersing their investigation.

The way the dispatch made it to the vent and why this hazardous cargo stayed there for over six decades, has been fundamental to the queries raised in the wake.

An analysis by The Cube has tracked down the boat which held two million tonnes of ammonium nitrate, which makes it into the Port of Beirut in 2013.

After getting embroiled in either a legal and fiscal dispute, the boat left Beirut’s oceans, as well as the volatile material, was transferred to property at the vent.

In 2015, a book that reports on lawful maritime disputes detailed the event of a freight vessel, which was abandoned at the Port of Beirut 2 decades prior.

Back in September 2013, the Rhesus, a Moldovan-flagged boat, set sail out of Georgia using 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate — the same level as was being saved at Hangar 12, the warehouse which burst on Tuesday.

It is intended destination was Mozambique however, the boat had to stop at Beirut because of”technical issues”.

Articles from that the Seafarer’s Union of Russia detailed precisely the same circumstance, stating that Russian members of this team hadn’t been compensated.

They mentioned a briefing with a Beirut-based law company that stated that the boat was abandoned and arrested by the port’s state management.

The bureau added that their maritime insurance resources” stressed that this kind of decision is preliminary at this stage, pending appropriate investigation”.

“At some stage between the detention and the sinking, a few 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate – an industrial compound widely utilized in the production of fertilizer and both industrial and illegal explosives – were warehoused within the perimeters of this vent,” Lloyd’s List included.

The Cube has contacted that the last registered owner of this Rhosus for comment but hadn’t got a response in the time of publication.

Tracking the Rhosus’ moves in 2013
All resources recorded the Rhosus as a”general cargo boat”, measuring over 86 meters.

Employing boat coordinates supplied to The Cube from Marine Traffic, we tracked the past recorded travel of this Rhosus in 2013 to determine how it ended up at the Port of Beirut.

The Rhesus ceased for 2 weeks in Istanbul and made port in Athens, Greece for over three months from October 21. It wasn’t monitored moving by Marine Traffic before 15 November, as it made continuous progress throughout the Mediterranean Sea.

Rather than turning south towards the Suez Canal and on to Mozambique, the boat led into the capital and came close to Beirut on November 20. The following day, Marine Traffic monitored the boat’s place to an anchor place within the vent.

Inside a week, it had been situated in another loading bay, close but not adjacent to Hangar 12.

The final recorded reading of this Rhosus was created on August 7, 2014, as it was situated close to breakwaters from the vent.

The diplomatic dispute

The boat’s route matches reports, but questions remain about why the boat was virtually static at the Port of Beirut for several months, and also what happened to its cargo and crew.

In an announcement to The Cube, the ITF verified they had managed the event of the deserted team aboard the Rhosus in 2014.

The ITF said that the boat was detained by port police for outstanding invoices for the payment of salary. This was thought to be in the area of $100,000 (equal to over $84,000 in 2020). The ITF told me because the Rhesus was”inclined to be arrested for a very long time”.

Lloyd’s List intellect documents also demonstrate the Rhesus was captured in February 2014 due to”outstanding bunkers”. They stated the unattended boat sank from the breakwaters in February 2018.

“[The] owners affirmed [the] cargo proprietor [had] disappeared with freight documents,” stated an ITF spokesperson.

After having a local attorney, the team of this Rhosus lodged complaints regarding back cover and requested to leave the boat.

This began a diplomatic tussle over their repatriation, together with the ITF stating that police from Moldova, Ukraine and Lebanon were requested to help with proceedings.

The team was finally permitted to depart the boat and were later repatriated in September 2014.

What happened?

In 2017, the IMO issued advice about ways to deal with the carriage of ammonium nitrate, mentioning two different accidents regarding the volatile chemical.

They cautioned against”the use of warmth” near the fertilizer and pointed out to risks regarding its decomposition.

Lebanese lawmaker Salim Aoun submitted letters on societal websites revealing customs officials also expressing concerns regarding the freight to judicial government.

Founded in 2016 shows habits officials questioning if they might re-export the dispatch because of the volatile nature of the nitrate.

Knowing the possible risks of ammonium nitrate under specific circumstances, questions remain as to why nothing has been done.