Tue, 29 Sep 2020

Mozambican port authorities on Thursday denied any knowledge of the ship carrying the cargo of ammonium nitrate said to have caused the devastating explosion in Beirut.

They were reacting to widespread reports that the ammonium nitrate had arrived in Lebanon in 2013 on board a Moldovan-flagged ship sailing from Georgia and bound for the central port city of Beira.

"The port operator was not aware that the vessel MV Rhosus would dock at the port of Beira," the Beira ports authority said in a statement.

It said typically the arrival of any ship at the port "is announced by the ship's agent to the port operator seven to 15 days in advance".

But a senior ports official who asked not to be named had earlier told AFP that "although the destination of the ship was the port of Beira, the final destination of the cargo was not Mozambique but Zimbabwe or Zambia, because ammonium nitrate is used to manufacture explosive materials used in the mining industry".

READ | Beirut's accidental cargo: How an unscheduled port visit led to disaster

Marine Traffic, a ship-tracking platform, said the Moldova-flagged vessel first arrived in Beirut's port, the country's busiest, on November 20, 2013 and never left.

According to Lebanese law firm Baroudi & Associates, which represented the vessel's crew, the Rhosus ship had faced "technical problems".

Several security officials told AFP that the ship temporarily docked at the port but was later seized by authorities due to a lawsuit filed by a Lebanese company against the ship's owner.

Port authorities unloaded the ammonium nitrate and stored it in a rundown port warehouse with cracks in its walls, and the ship sank sometime later because of damage, the officials said.

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