In 2013, a Russian-owned vessel carrying 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate arrived in the port of Beirut. The MV Rhosus was en route through Georgia to Mozambique, but economic difficulties that sparked unrest among the ship’s Russian and Ukrainian crews forced the ship to stop in Beirut, CNN says.
The cargo from that ship is believed to have caused a huge explosion in downtown Beirut last Tuesday. The blast killed at least 135 people and injured thousands more.
The port area was badly damaged by the explosion.
Photo: Xinhua / Zuma / MVphotos
The authorities have not directly named the ammonium nitrate to be from the vessel MV Rhosus. However, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the explosion was caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in the port for six years.
Lebanese authorities have also said, according to the Wall Street Journal, that ammonium nitrate entered the country in 2013 on a ship en route to Georgia.
Al Jazeera had previously reported that ammonium nitrate had landed in September 2013 when a Russian ship had arrived in the port of Beirut. According to Al Jazeera, the ship was eventually abandoned and ammonium nitrate was taken to a warehouse where it was a concern for six years before the explosion earlier this week.
Read more: Al Jazeera: Russian ship rejects cargo of ammonium nitrate to Beirut - customs tried for years to warn of serious danger
CNN has received documents telling more about the Russian ship. According to the news channel, the ship was en route to Batumi, Georgia, after which it was scheduled to continue its voyage to Mozambique.
The ship traveled under the Moldovan flag. In Greece, when the ship stopped to refuel, the shipowner told the sailors about the financial problems and said that during the voyage, more cargo had to be sought to cover the cost of the voyage. This is how the ship ended up in Beirut.
A helicopter will drop water on top of the smoldering scrap after the explosion on Thursday.
Photo: Bilal Jawich / Zuma / MVphotos
In Beirut, the port authorities took over the MV Rhosus because the ship’s port dues had not been paid and the Russian and Ukrainian crews had complained about their treatment.
- I wrote to Putin every day ... Eventually we had to sell fuel and use that money to hire a lawyer because we didn't get help, the owner didn't even provide us with food or water, the ship's captain Boris Prokoshev said in an interview with Echo Moscow radio on Wednesday.
The crew eventually abandoned the ship and the dangerous cargo was seized.
CNN also reports that customs authorities have repeatedly expressed concern about ammonium nitrate stored in the port.
In an interview with the New York Times, Prokoshev said he heard from his friends that MV Rhosus had sunk in the port of Beirut in either 2015 or 2016. He wonders that the ship’s cargo did not cause an accident before.
- I was horrified, however, the 70-year-old retired captain thought about the explosion on Tuesday.
According to the English-language Cyprus Mail, the Cypriot authorities have spoken to a Russian businessman who owns the ship and lives in Limassol. The Lebanese authorities had asked the Cypriot police to ask the man questions about the cargo that ended up in the port of Beirut.