Beirut Explosion: How Lebanon confiscated 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate

The huge explosion in Lebanese capital Beirut killed at least 100 people and injured more than 4,000 others on Tuesday.

The blast is likely to have occurred after 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that was busted on a ship in 2014 was stored in a warehouse.

What triggered for the ammonium nitrate to blow up is a matter of investigation, however experts suggest excessive heating.

How the ship carrying 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate was impounded?

On 23 September 2013, Rhosus set sail from Batumi, Georgia, to Beira, Mozambique, carrying 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate

During the trip, it was forced to port in Beirut with engine problems.

After inspection by Port State Control, Rhosus was found unseaworthy, and it was forbidden to set sail.

Eight Ukrainians and one Russian were aboard, and with the help of a Ukrainian consul, five Ukrainians were repatriated, leaving four crew members to take care of the ship.

The owner of Rhosus went bankrupt and after the charterers lost interest in the cargo, the owner abandoned the ship. Rhosus then quickly ran out of provisions, while the crew were unable to disembark due to immigration restrictions.

Creditors also obtained three arrest warrants against the ship.

Lawyers argued for the crew’s repatriation on compassionate grounds, due to the danger posed by the cargo still aboard the ship, and an Urgent Matters judge in Beirut allowed them to return home after having been stuck aboard the ship for about a year.

The dangerous cargo was then brought ashore in 2014 and placed in a building, Hangar 12, at the port, pursuant to a court order, for the next six years.

Various customs officials had sent letters to judges requesting a resolution to the issue of the confiscated cargo, proposing that the ammonium nitrate either be exported, given to the Army, or sold to the private Lebanese Explosives Company.

Letters had been sent on 27 June 2014, 5 December 2014, 6 May 2015, 20 May 2016, 13 October 2016, and 27 October 2017.

One of the letters sent in 2016 noted that judges had not replied to previous requests, and “pleaded” for a resolution due to the “serious danger of keeping these goods in the hangar in unsuitable climatic conditions”