Igor Grechushkin, a Russian businessman has been linked to the ammonium nitrate stored in the warehouse which sparked the explosion at the Port of Beirut. The 2,700 tons of fertilizer was confiscated from his abandoned cargo ship after an unscheduled stop.
Port of Beirut has been caught in a covert war brewing in Lebanon for sometime. Commentators have long been warning that it could be a flashpoint for the next Lebanon war – that flashpoint is the disputed resource-rich maritime territory known as Block 9.https://t.co/YPS11yacWn
— GreatGameIndia (@GreatGameIndia) August 6, 2020
The 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate which is believed to have caused the explosion at the Port of Beirut was confiscated from a Russian businessman who abandoned his cargo ship after an unscheduled stop.
As per officials the blast was sparked by this confiscated ammonium nitrate stored in the warehouse since 2014.
“It is negligence,” the official source told Reuters, adding that the issue on storing the material safely had come before several committees and judges and “nothing was done” to order the material be removed or disposed off.
The source said a fire had started at port warehouse 9 on Tuesday and spread to warehouse 12, where the ammonium nitrate was stored.
Subscribe to GreatGameIndia
Another source close to a port employee said a team that inspected the material six months ago warned it could “blow up all of Beirut” if not removed.
Port General Manager Hassan Koraytem told OTV the material had been put in a warehouse on a court order, adding that they knew then the material was dangerous but “not to this degree”.
Two documents seen by Reuters showed Lebanese Customs had asked the judiciary in 2016 and 2017 to request that the “concerned maritime agency” re-export or approve the sale of the ammonium nitrate, which had been removed from cargo vessel Rhosus and deposited in warehouse 12, to ensure port safety.
Shiparrested.com, an industry network dealing with legal cases, said in a 2015 report that the Rhosus, sailing under a Moldovan flag, docked in Beirut in September 2013 when it had technical problems while sailing from Georgia to Mozambique with 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate.
The Rhosus is owned by Igor Grechushkin, a Russian national who now lives in Cyprus, according to the Moscow Times.
Grechushkin then declared bankruptcy — and “abandoned” the ship in Lebanon, leaving its crew stranded on the vessel for months before the ammonium nitrate could be offloaded.
“Owing to the risks associated with retaining the ammonium nitrate on board the vessel, the port authorities discharged the cargo onto the port’s warehouses,” the lawyers wrote in a 2015 article published by shiparrested.com.
“The vessel and cargo remain to date in port awaiting auctioning and/or proper disposal.”
Badri Daher, director general of Lebanese customs, told broadcaster LBCI on Wednesday that customs had sent six documents to the judiciary warning that the material posed a danger.
“We requested that it be re-exported but that did not happen. We leave it to the experts and those concerned to determine why,” Daher said.
It also remains unclear what conditions the ammonium nitrate had been stored in — or why tons of an explosive chemical compound had been left there for years.
GreatGameIndia is a journal on Geopolitics and International Relations. Get to know the Geopolitical threats India is facing in our exclusive book India in Cognitive Dissonance. Past magazine issues can be accessed from the Archives section.