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Operations back underway at Port of Beirut

Operations back underway at Port of Beirut
12 out of 16 cranes at the port are operational

The Port of Beirut is handling vessels again, just days after 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate triggered an explosion in a port warehouse, killing at least 171 people and injuring 6,000.

Despite the devastation, the container terminal at the port only suffered minor damage and port authorities have decided to restart operations.

Raoul Nehme, Lebanon’s caretaker economy minister, said on Twitter, that 12 out of 16 cranes at the port are operating.

All cranes have been inspected and tested for safety, and divers have ensured that the piers were not damaged.

Hapag-Lloyd has decided to immediately reinstate its services to the Port of Beirut while Maersk has stated that its next vessel call will be operated at the port.

The German carrier’s Mona Lisa is scheduled to visit Beirut on the Levante Express (LEX) service on August 14 and will also deliver import cargo from the Fleur N, which previously omitted the Beirut call and discharged it at Damietta.

The East Med Express (EME) service will also reinstate its Beirut call, with the CMA CGM Musset to visit the port on August 15.

Maersk, which has confirmed that three of its injured staff members have now recovered, has noted that export acceptance is back to normal and customers can book shipments via its website.

Meanwhile, investigations are continuing regarding the situation in the container yard and the reasons behind the failure to discharge the ammonium nitrate from the port for several years.

Following the explosion in Tianjin in 2015, also caused by ammonium nitrate, Chinese ports faced stricter regulations on the handling of dangerous goods, and it is anticipated that rules in Lebanon will toughen up.

Although the explosion was caused by dangerous goods cargo, which was stored improperly in a warehouse, there are no new regulations in place at this time.

Instead, there is a ban for class 1 “explosives” as well as class 7 “radioactive material” for discharge, load, transit and transhipment.

Nehme also attempted to downplay worries that Lebanon, which relies on shipments for all its rice, sugar and flour, will face a food crisis because the country’s main grain silo was damaged in the explosion.

He noted that currently the mills’ stocks of flour in the country total 32,000 tonnes while 110,000 tonnes have arrived within two weeks. As the country’s monthly flour consumptions is 35,000 tonnes, this should be sufficient for four months.

The World Food Programme will also donate 17,000 tonnes of flour, which will be distributed to the affected areas.