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“Total destruction.” Beirut’s port is gone. Ships missing following massive blast.

The blasts destroyed wheat in the port’s granaries shown here. Lebanon imports about 90% of its wheat, mostly through the destroyed port.

PortandTerminal.com, August 5, 2020

“Damages are starting to unfold in Beirut and inside the port, which was completely destroyed by yesterday’s huge explosion” (LCBI News)

BEIRUT – As Beirut wakes up to the aftermath of the massive explosion that tore through its port district yesterday, the scale of the devastation is becoming clearer.

Simply put, much if not most of the Port of Beirut has been completely destroyed.

According to shipping agency GAC, the explosion and the subsequent blast in Beirut destroyed almost everything in the port and the surrounding area up to a radius of 6 miles and was equal to a 4.5 magnitude earthquake. 

The Port of Beirut is the largest shipping and clearing point in Lebanon, through which approximately 70% of the incoming and outgoing trade traffic to and from the country passes, according to the port’s website. This is what it looks like now.

Port destruction following explosion

Maritime security consultancy Dryad Global has reported that “vessels and buildings within a 3 mile radius of the blast are believed to have been almost entirely destroyed”.

“Due to proximal location, and local reporting of other fatalities, it would be unlikely if the port location did not experience significant casualties,” reported Dryad.

According to Lloyd’s List Intelligence, seven vessels were in port when the explosion occurred, the largest being the Malta-flagged CMA CGM Lyra, an 11,356 teu containership, and the Panama-flagged Duke I, a 39,999 dwt chemical tanker.

Maritime Bulletin is reporting that three berthed near the explosion site have gone “dark” since the explosion with their AIS off during the last 14-16 hours, immediately or shortly after, the blast.

The ships idenfied as potentially missing are general cargo ship MERO STAR, IMO 8321682, dwt 4110; general cargo ship RAOUF H, IMO 8325535, dwt 6343; Livestock carrier JOURI, IMO 9174775, GT 4033.

The general cargo vessel Raouf H (IMO: 8325535) was the closest commercial vessel to the reported epicentre of the explosion near the Beirut Port silos.

Crew members from the Megite are missing following the blast. The ship is reported to have capsized

Cruise ship damaged at port in Beirut
Orient Queen Cruise Ship Damaged in Beirut Blast – “The ship is totally destroyed – the cabins, the lounge, everything,” a crew member told Al Jazeera.

Sierra Leone flagged general cargo vessel Mero Star (IMO: 8321682) was berthed at the east end of the dock. Three local pilot tugs were also in close proximity to the explosion. 

Dryad reports local sources stating that almost all of the port logistical infrastructure has been destroyed. The status of vessels alongside remains unknown. 

The port’s granaries have been completely destroyed in the blast

The blasts destroyed wheat in the port’s granaries. Lebanon imports about 90% of its wheat, mostly through the destroyed port. The port granaries held about 85% of the country’s cereals, according to reports.

Economy Minister Raoul Nehme Wednesday said Lebanon had enough grain reserves for “a bit less than a month” after the explosion destroyed the nation’s main silo.

“We are currently looking for storage areas,” Nehme told Reuters, adding that Lebanon needed enough inventories to last at least three months to ensure its food security.

Maersk confirmed that its Beirut office building had been damaged by the explosion. Three employees who were inside the office suffered minor injuries. They were taken to hospital but later  discharged and sent home.

All staff are accounted for and have been instructed to remain working from home, Maersk said in a statement. The Danish company did not have any vessels near the port at the time of the blast.

Hapag-Lloyd said its agent’s office had been completely destroyed, but all staff are safe. The German line, which had no ships in the area, is now drawing up contingency plans for service operations.

GAC said its office building at the entrance of the port has been severely damaged but staff are still able to receive emails. 

Dozens of ambulances ferried the injured from the port area, where the wounded lay on the ground, Associated Press staff at the scene said. Army helicopters helped battle fires raging at the port. 

Video taken by residents showed a fire raging at the port, sending up a giant column of smoke, illuminated by flashes of what appear to be fireworks. Local TV stations reported that a fireworks warehouse was involved.

For now, the massive blast which is being blamed on 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate had been stored unsafely in a port warehouse for six years. 

The Port of Beirut

The Port of Beirut is located at the site of the explosion’s epicenter and took a direct hit from the massive shock wave created by the blast

The port is located in a strategic area linking the commercial markets of Asia, Europe and Africa and thus reduces the duration of commercial navigation voyages compared with other routes.

With a direct connection to 56 ports on three continents, the port receives and exports goods in cooperation with 300 other ports worldwide.

In 2018, the Port of Beirut received about 7.05 million tons of goods, representing 72% of the total imports of goods across the sea, compared with exports of nearly 1 million tons, representing 78% of the total volume of exports.

Data show the port raked in no more than $200 million in 2019, compared with $313 million in 2018, while revenues did not exceed $90 million in 2005.

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