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The cargo that blew up Beirut: Sailor REVEALS troubled historical past of doomed ship that introduced TONS of explosive fertilizer to Lebanon

The cargo that blew up Beirut: Sailor REVEALS troubled history of doomed ship that brought TONS of explosive fertilizer to Lebanon


The explosion that devastated Beirut has been linked to a mishandled ammonium nitrate cargo confiscated from a international ship. Now a former crew member tells RT the vessel, owned by a dodgy businessman, was a catastrophe within the making.

Some 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate – a extremely explosive fertilizer – went up in a terrifying blast in Beirut on Tuesday, Lebanese officers have mentioned. The mushroom-shaped explosion left a wasteland the place town port stood, turning the encircling buildings into ruins and killing greater than 100 individuals. 1000’s of others have been injured in a kilometers-wide radius. Personnel from the port authorities have been arrested whereas a probe has been launched into the mishandling of the harmful materials. However how did this ludicrously giant cache find yourself within the Beirut port within the first place?

The ammonium nitrate cargo has been confiscated from the arrested vessel MV Rhosus, Lebanon’s Supreme Protection Council has confirmed. The ship is claimed to have entered Beirut port in September 2013 attributable to technical difficulties and was ultimately banned from persevering with its voyage. A deeper look into its historical past reveals, nevertheless, that the vessel was a floating catastrophe, and hassle was brewing on it for fairly a while.

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In accordance with the MarineTraffic monitoring portal, Rhosus was in-built 1986 and has been by fairly quite a few homeowners. Its current historical past started in 2012 when it was purchased by Teto Delivery – an organization registered within the Marshall Islands and owned by a Cyprus-based, Russian-born businessman, Igor Grechushkin – nearly a 12 months earlier than it was seized by the Lebanese port authorities. The corporate itself was shaped that very same 12 months and Rhosus seems to have been its solely vessel. It’s now turning into clear, nevertheless, that the ship may hardly have been known as a worthy vessel, even then.

‘A bitter crusing expertise’

The ship sailed underneath the Moldovan flag, and its crew was made up principally of Ukrainians and Russians. The chilling messages they left on Russian-language boards courting again to 2012 paint an image of nightmarish work circumstances from the second they took on the job. Amenities in a dismal state, extraordinarily low salaries and again pay points are continuously talked about within the posts, which principally served as warnings for fellow sailors contemplating contracts with the corporate.

A screenshot of a MarineTraffic.com web page depicting Rhosus cargo ship.


©  MarineTraffic.com

“These, who labored [on the Rhosus] ought to be awarded ‘Hero’ titles,” one sailor wrote, in a message screenshotted by Telegram information channel Baza. “The ship has no refrigerating chamber” to retailer foodstuffs and even the grasp’s cabin had no sanitary conveniences, the message reads.

RT has contacted a former worker of Teto Delivery, who served onboard the ill-fated ship – and his account seems to completely help the crewmen’s allegations.

Semyon Nikolenko, who was employed as {an electrical} engineer for the MV Rhosus crew a while in 2012, says each the vessel and the corporate administration had been “not good.”


©  RT

“It was my first contract, my first [sailing] expertise – and a bitter one,” the sailor, now dwelling in Crimea, advised RT. The ship’s proprietor was “all speak,” Nikolenko recalled, describing Igor Grechushkin as a “sly” man who didn’t ship on his guarantees.

Much more alarmingly, the ship had a number of technical points, together with malfunctioning radars and hassle with its most important engine. Nikolenko’s story suggests Grechushkin couldn’t have cared much less in regards to the issues, as he solely financed repairs when the ship’s deficiencies had been registered by port authorities.

There have been frequent inspections within the European ports, fixed reprimands, arrests.

Nikolenko admitted that Teto Delivery typically sought to resolve any points with port authorities by bribes quite than by rectifying deficiencies. Shortly earlier than arriving in Beirut, the ship had been underneath ‘arrest’ for 2 weeks in Seville, Spain, the place the port authorities pressured the corporate to put in a backup generator since solely one of many vessel’s energy items was operational, the sailor recalled.

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The person, who served greater than seven months on the ship, give up the job simply earlier than Rhosus’ ill-fated journey that ended within the Port of Beirut.

Lifeless-end journey

In 2013, Rhosus picked up 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate within the Georgian port of Batumi and was anticipated to ship it to Mozambique however by no means reached its vacation spot because of the technical points. Following an inspection by the Port State Management – an arm of the Worldwide Maritime Group (IMO) – it was forbidden from leaving Port of Beirut.

By that point, the crew had already been decreased to a minimal, because of the “harmful” nature of the cargo on board, Nikolenko says. A 2015 authorized abstract made by Lebanese legislation agency Baroudi & Associates suggests the vessel was then nearly deserted each by the ship proprietor, who promptly declared his firm bankrupt, and the cargo homeowners.

The captain of the ship and 4 different crew members had been detained in Beirut and needed to spend 11 months there earlier than they had been allowed to return dwelling. Captain Boris Prokoshev filed a criticism towards the ship proprietor in 2014, wherein he mentioned that the sailors had been left with out salaries and meals.

In accordance with the captain, the vessel was arrested by the Lebanese over its failure to pay the port payment. But, he believes, it was an ill-advised transfer. “It was no use arresting this ship. They need to have removed it as quickly as attainable,” Prokoshev advised sibreal.org, including that Beirut may even have safely disposed of the harmful cargo. “If nobody lays declare on the cargo then it belongs to nobody,” Prokoshev mentioned.

In accordance with Baroudi & Associates, the ship’s harmful cargo was moved to a port storage facility, the place, apparently, it remained all these years. As for the destiny of the troubled ship, which was final registered by the Marinetraffic tracker within the Beirut port near the epicenter of the explosion, it might need sunk lengthy earlier than the port was devasted by the blast.

“It had a small gap within the hull. We needed to pump out the water infrequently. With out the crew, there was nobody to try this,” the captain mentioned.

Thoughts-boggling violations

Whereas for the MV Rhosus the jig was up then and there, the identical can’t be mentioned of its cargo, which remained a priority for Lebanese authorities for years to come back. Safety officers had been conscious of the hazard posed by the ammonium nitrate cache and demanded that port officers take away it months earlier than the catastrophe, native media stories have claimed. However the purported photographs of the storage web site shared on social media seem to indicate that the authorities on the bottom had a woefully insufficient understanding of the way to correctly retailer the explosion-prone chemical substances. The images seemingly present giant baggage filled with tons of fertilizer swiftly lumped right into a flimsy-looking warehouse – virtually the identical materials that triggered widespread destruction in Toulouse in 2001 and in Texas Metropolis in 1947.

In a grotesque twist, somebody reportedly determined to retailer fireworks subsequent to the flamable cache. The unofficial story goes that it took a welding job on the warehouse’s door to set them alight, which in flip triggered the huge explosion of ammonium nitrate, with various estimates placing it as equal to 1 or a number of kilotons of TNT.

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That might not be the entire story, nevertheless, and whereas the Lebanese authorities has ambitiously promised to disclose the outcomes of its probe inside “5 days,” the catastrophe could have already pushed the crisis-stricken nation over the sting. Amid an outpouring of worldwide help and heartwarming scenes of neighborly assist, crowds took to the streets to protest the federal government, venting their discontent towards the general state of the nation, rocked by months of intense demonstrations. The blast has left between 200,000 and 300,000 individuals homeless in Beirut, multibillion greenback losses are being named, and the embattled nation now faces a deeper disaster than earlier than.

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