Daily Beast: Beirut Ignored Warning There Was A 'Floating Bomb' At Its Port

Screengrab / Washington Post / YouTube


A Russian ship with a 2,750 metric ton cargo of ammonium nitrate was abandoned in Beirut's port in 2013.

According to The Daily Beast, officials in Beirut ignored for years a public warning from a maritime analyst that “a Russian ‘floating bomb’ was languishing in the city’s docks.”

On Tuesday, “a devastating blast killed at least 100 people and injured more than 4,000 in Beirut.”

  • The report states that “Maritime monitoring systems tracked the Rhosus into port in Beirut in September 2013,” adding that the ship listed its cargo as “agricultural commodities.”

  • That “2,750 metric ton cargo of ammonium nitrate would primarily be used for fertilizers or high power explosives,” The Daily Beast wrote, adding: “To put it in context, less than two metric tons of ammonium nitrate was used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.”

  • The Russian ship’s reason for calling into port in Beirut is unknown, though it was “possibly after running into trouble at sea en route from Georgia to Mozambique.”

  • It was blocked from leaving by Beirut authorities and “the dangerous cargo was offloaded and stored in Hanger 12 in the port a year later, according to the maritime monitoring website Fleetmon.”

  • In July 2014, Mikhail Voytenko, a Russian maritime analyst based in Thailand, warned that the ship “was effectively a ‘floating bomb.’”

  • The ship owners had abandoned the ship and crew, and Lebanese authorities had not protected the cargo.

  • Voytenko told The Daily Beast: “There are a lot of restrictions, regulations and rules to stick to when talking about storing explosives like ammonium but they just stored it in a warehouse and forgot about it.”

  • The Russian captain and three Ukrainian crew members were made to stay on the ship after six other members were released, according to the report, subsequently launching an appeal to get out.
    “The shipowner abandoned the vessel. The cargo owner has ammonium nitrate in the hold,” Musinchak wrote in an email to both the Assol Seamen Aid Foundation and the diplomatic services of Ukraine. “It is an explosive substance... This is how we live for free on a powder keg for 10 months.”
    A Lebanese court then reportedly gave permission to unload the cargo, but not before asking the sailors to find a buyer for it themselves, which they claimed in the email they could not because all communication was stripped from the ship.

  • Boris Prokoshev, the ship’s captain, appeared on Russian television on Wednesday, “insisting that even the lawyer who tried to free them was corrupt and not concerned about the fate of the ammonium nitrate.”
    “For some reason, the consignee did not lift a finger to get his cargo out,” he said.
    The ship was owned and operated by Igor Grechushkin, a Russian, who now moved to Cyprus, according to the stranded sailors. Calls to Grechushkin were not immediately answered.

Lebanese officials reportedly also ignored warnings from “port authorities about the ammonium nitrate that sparked the devastating explosion.”

The Daily Beast reported that “On Wednesday, hundreds were still reported missing from the massive explosion, which generated seismic waves similar to a 3.3 magnitude earthquake.”

Read the full report.


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