January 20, 2021

How A Russian Cargo Ship’s Unscheduled Port Go to Led To Catastrophe

How A Russian Cargo Ship's Unscheduled Port Visit Led To Beirut Disaster

Russian-leased cargo ship within the port of Beirut, Lebanon, in a summer season 2014 {photograph}.


The chemical compounds that went up in flames in Beirut’s deadliest peace-time explosion arrived within the Lebanese capital seven years in the past on a leaky Russian-leased cargo ship that, in response to its captain, ought to by no means have stopped there.

“They had been being grasping,” stated Boris Prokoshev, who was captain of the Rhosus in 2013 when he says the proprietor informed him to make an unscheduled cease in Lebanon to select up further cargo.

Prokoshev stated the ship was carrying 2,750 tonnes of a extremely flamable chemical from Georgia to Mozambique when the order got here to divert to Beirut on its method by the Mediterranean.

The crew had been requested to load some heavy highway gear and take it to Jordan’s Port of Aqaba earlier than resuming their journey onto Africa, the place the ammonium nitrate was to be delivered to an explosives producer.

However the ship was by no means to go away Beirut, having tried and failed to securely load the extra cargo earlier than turning into embroiled in a prolonged authorized dispute over port charges.

“It was unimaginable,” Prokoshev, 70, informed Reuters of the operation to try to load the additional cargo. “It may have ruined the entire ship and I stated no,” he stated by ‘cellphone from his dwelling within the Russian resort city of Sochi on the Black Coastline.

The captain and attorneys performing for some collectors accused the ship’s proprietor of abandoning the vessel and succeeded in having it arrested. Months later, for security causes, the ammonium nitrate was unloaded and put in a dock warehouse.

On Tuesday, that stockpile caught fireplace and exploded not removed from a built-up residential space of the town. The large blast killed 145 folks, injured 5,000, flattened buildings and made greater than 1 / 4 of one million folks homeless.

The ship may need succeeded in leaving Beirut, had it managed to load the extra cargo.

The crew had stacked the gear, together with excavators and road-rollers, on prime of the doorways to the cargo maintain which held the ammonium nitrate under, in response to the ship’s Ukrainian boatswain, Boris Musinchak. However the maintain doorways buckled.

“The ship was previous and the quilt of the maintain bent,” Musinchak stated by ‘cellphone. “We determined to not take dangers.”

The captain and three crew spent 11 months on the ship whereas the authorized dispute dragged on, with out wages and with solely restricted provides of meals. As soon as they left, the ammonium nitrate was unloaded.

“The cargo was extremely explosive. That is why it was saved on board once we had been there … That ammonium nitrate had a really excessive focus,” Prokoshev stated.


Prokoshev recognized the ship’s proprietor as Russian businessman Igor Grechushkin. Makes an attempt to contact Grechushkin had been unsuccessful.

The ammonium nitrate was bought by Georgian fertiliser maker Rustavi Azot LLC, and was to be delivered to a Mozambique explosives maker, Fabrica de Explosivos.

A senior consultant for Fabrica de Explosivos didn’t instantly reply when despatched a request for touch upon LinkedIn.

Levan Burdiladze, the Rustavi Azot plant director, informed Reuters that his firm had solely operated the chemical manufacturing facility for the final three years and so he couldn’t verify whether or not the ammonium nitrate was produced there.

He known as the choice to retailer the fabric in Beirut port a “gross violation of secure storage measures, contemplating that ammonium nitrate loses its helpful properties in six months.”

Preliminary Lebanese investigations into what occurred have pointed to inaction and negligence within the dealing with of the possibly harmful chemical.

Lebanon’s cupboard on Wednesday agreed to put all Beirut port officers who’ve overseen storage and safety since 2014 beneath home arrest, ministerial sources stated.

The top of Beirut port and the top of customs stated that a number of letters had been despatched to the judiciary asking for the fabric be eliminated, however no motion was taken.

Reuters couldn’t instantly attain Lebanon’s justice minister for remark. The Justice Ministry is closed for 3 days of nationwide mourning.

Based on Prokoshev, the ship had been leaking however was seaworthy when it sailed into Beirut in September 2013. Nevertheless, he stated Lebanese authorities paid little consideration to the ammonium nitrate, which had been stacked within the hull in giant sacks.

“I really feel sorry for the folks (killed or injured within the blast). However native authorities, the Lebanese, ought to be punished. They didn’t care concerning the cargo in any respect,” he stated.

The deserted Rhosus sank the place she was moored in Beirut harbour, in response to a Could, 2018 e-mail from a lawyer to Prokoshev, which stated it had gone down “not too long ago”.

(Apart from the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV workers and is revealed from a syndicated feed.)