The recent deadly explosion in Beirut Port has shaken the world. In this article, we will sum up the development of the past days and the impact the catastrophe has on container logistics. We’ll especially focus on what alternatives there are to one of the most important logistics hubs for logistics companies operating in the mediterranean sea.
On the 4th of August, a powerful blast was heard in the port of Beirut, Lebanon. The explosion destroyed almost everything in the port and the surrounding area in a 10 km radius – leaving a crater nearly 45 meters deep in the port territory.
Allegedly, it was caused by tons of inappropriately stored ammonium nitrate inside the warehouse. As a result, 200 people died, thousands are injured, as well as around 300,000 got homeless.
Despite the large scale of the disaster, the container terminal at the east part of the port survived with less damage. It resumed working a week after the explosion.
Apparently, 12 out of 16 cranes are now operating there. But the clearance area has been completely destroyed. Special forces now continue cleaning the port to receive the smaller vessels.
There are no official figures about the real financial impact of the explosion yet, but estimates vary between $3-5 billion.
Why did the explosion happen?
According to the latest information, the disaster in the Lebanese capital was caused by 2,750 tons of the extremely explosive ammonium nitrate.
Apparently, chemicals were stored without necessary safety measures in the port warehouse for six years.
Russian owned vessel, MV Rhosus that brought the dangerous cargo in the port was abandoned after local officials prohibited it from sailing due. So then, the cargo was transferred to a warehouse.
An investigation now continues to find out what exactly triggered the explosion. It is unclear whether fireworks, ammunition or something else was involved in it. Or was the dangerous cargo stored in the right kind of warehouse?
Head of customs has officially been arrested, while other port authorities remain under home arrest. Resurfaced official documents suggest that they knew about the hazardous goods at the port and its potential danger.
Lebanese side hasn’t officially confirmed any remaining or potential chemical risks at the port. But as AP reports, chemical experts working on the sight have so far identified more than 20 containers carrying dangerous chemicals.
Tripoli Port as an alternative to Beirut
As of now, shipping lines are sending cargo to the alternative port, Tripoli – the second biggest port in Lebanon. The Port of Beirut is connected with 300 ports around the world, and it has the capacity to receive 1.5 million containers per year.
In comparison, Tripoli can hold only 300,000 a year. But Lebanese officials are convinced that as a second largest logistics hub, it is going to take the majority of the redirected ships. Tripoli port is set to raise the absorptive capacity to 7 million tons and approximately 400,000 containers.
According to AFP, other smaller ports in Lebanon, Saida and Tyre can also take up some of the load, but they have limited capacities, and they can’t dock the bigger vessels.
Several leading container shipping companies offices, such as Hapag-Lloyd, Maersk and CMA CGM were also destroyed or are severely damaged. They don’t report the damage to their vessels, but they lost containers.
CMA CGM is already moving on to establish a new hub in Tripoli, which is probably what other companies are going to do while searching for alternatives around eastern Mediterrane.
There is a possibility that rebuilding the Port of Beirut will become a heated subject in the middle of a struggle for political power and money. And it most likely will take a long time before the port is fully functional again. Before that the shipping industry will have to find new routes, new hubs and new partners to get connected.
Diversification and being flexible is key
As nobody can predict catastrophes such as explosions and pandemics like COVID-19 or even only delays, diversifying risk and being flexible in terms of partners or ports you work with is important for any shipping company.
One solution that can help you increase transparency is Container xChange. With our neutral online platform, we connect you to more than 300 shipping companies to find containers to buy, sell or lease. If you’re looking for equipment or your plans suddenly change, you can enter your pickup and drop off details to find potential partners all over the world.
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