• Opinion : Beirut Disaster Was Exceptional But Events Leading Up to It Were Not – Researchers

    A view shows the damage at site of Tuesday’s blast in Beirut’s port area, Lebanon August 6, 2020.
    REUTERS/Aziz Tahe

    By Scott Edwards, University of Bristol, and Christian Bueger, University of Copenhagen

    At the time of writing at least 100 people have lost their lives and a further 4,000 have been wounded following an explosion in the Port of Beirut. While the actual cause remains uncertain, the tragedy calls to attention the tremendous consequences of a lack of port security.

    The explosion, on August 4, at around 6pm local time, appears to have been fuelled by 2,750 tons of the highly reactive chemical ammonium nitrate. The chemical had been the cargo on a ship, the the MV Rhosus, which entered the port at Beirut in 2013 due to a lack of seaworthiness and was prohibited from sailing. After the ship’s owner abandoned the vessel soon afterwards, the ammonium nitrate remained in a storage facility in Beirut’s port.

    While the disaster itself was exceptional, the events leading up to it were not. Hazardous material is shipped across the world’s oceans on a daily basis. It is often mishandled or illegally traded. Abandoned containers of hazardous goods are found regularly in ports.

    While maritime security tends to focus on preventing high-profile events such as piracy, terrorism or cyber-attacks, all too often it is daily mishandling that makes disasters possible. Part of preventing disasters such as what has happened in Beirut will mean strengthening port management and addressing crimes such as smuggling and corruption.

    Rien de spécifique à Beyrouth, juste le rappel que des cargaisons abandonnées, il y en a dans pratiquement tous les ports. Au moins autant que la contrebande et la corruption.