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Casualties mount as Beirut blast linked to small arrested cargo ship

CASUALTIES rose to 135 dead and 5,000 injured yesterday in an ammonium nitrate explosion in cargo from the 3,226-dwt Maldova-flagged general cargo ship Rhosus that has been under arrest in Beirut as long as six years for non-payment fees, reports Kiev's Maritime Bulletin, which specialises in marine casualties

06 August 2020 - 19:00

CASUALTIES rose to 135 dead and 5,000 injured yesterday in an ammonium nitrate explosion in cargo from the 3,226-dwt Maldova-flagged general cargo ship Rhosus that has been under arrest in Beirut as long as six years for non-payment fees, reports Kiev's Maritime Bulletin, which specialises in marine casualties.

The government said it put an unspecified number of Beirut port officials under house arrest pending an investigation into how 2,750-tonnes of highly explosive materials transferred from the ship came to be stored less than 100 metres from a residential neighbourhoods.



The Rhosus was first detained after port state control inspection found a number of deficiencies. Since then vessel is stranded in the Port of Beirut. Only four crew remained aboard, the Russian master and the Ukrainian chief and third engineers and the bosun. The vessel was owned and operated by Grechushkin Igor, a Russian, now a Cypriot resident. Last known ship manager was Teto Shipping of Cyprus.



'The Rhosus has been officially abandoned. Its owner doesn??t communicate, doesn??t pay salaries, doesn??t provide supplies. Owner of the cargo has declared abandonment. And the Beirut authorities will not permit the remaining crew to leave and fly to home.' said the Maritime Bulletin.



Up to 300,000 people had suffered damage to their homes, leaving some uninhabitable, Beirut??s governor, Marwan Abboud under rubble, reported London's Guardian.



The mostly Ukrainian crew were held onboard the ship for nearly a year before they were released, their lawyers said in a 2015 note, and the ammonium nitrate was confiscated and held at the port in a warehouse.



The International Transport Workers Federation, which sought back wages and repatriation for the crew, confirmed that the ship was being held in part because it owed the port US$100,000 in unpaid bills.



French shipping giant CMA CGM Group expressed 'deepest emotion and solidarity' towards its on-site staff and all of the Lebanese people.



'The CMA CGM Group is extremely saddened by the terrible accidents that occurred in Beirut. Deeply rooted in Lebanon, the CMA CGM has launched an emergency plan to conduct a thorough health and safety assessment of its 261 staff members based in Beirut. At this stage, the preliminary toll shows two seriously injured and many minor injuries. One member of our staff at the port is currently missing. We are doing our utmost to locate him, in collaboration with local authorities,' said the company statement.



CMA CGM headquarters in Lebanon is located a few hundred metres from the site of the explosion, was severely damaged. The 11,400-TEU CMA CGM Lyra was 1.5 kilometres from the blast site. None of the crew was injured. The vessel was not damaged.



Said the Mediterrean Shipping Co, the world's second largest container carrier: 'MSC extends its deepest sympathies to all those affected and we are grateful to report that our staff are currently able to work remotely from home and that no MSC vessel was in the port at the time of the explosion.



'Due to the incident, calls at Beirut Container Terminal in Lebanon are currently being omitted and MSC is finding alternative contingency arrangements for cargo due to be loaded/discharged in Beirut until normal operations resume.



'MSC will update customers in due course in respect of any contingency arrangements for MSC services,' it said.


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