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Beirut Port’s Knowledge of the Hazard Level

Wednesday 12 August 2020

ODESSA (Ruptly) — Boris Prokoshev, the former captain of MV Rhosus vessel, which is believed to have delivered ammonium nitrate to the port of Beirut, told Ruptly that the vessel was prohibited from entering the port with highly explosive cargo on board, speaking in Odessa, Tuesday.

Last week’s ignition of this ammonium nitrate caused huge blasts at the port, killing hundreds.

Prokoshev said:

When we arrived, we reported the name of the cargo, its class, according to the IMO (International Maritime Organisation) number. We were allowed to enter. The docking pilot came, we went to the roadstead, after a while, when the time came, the docking pilot called us to the port, we moored. Then, once there, we were asked — I don’t remember who asked — but we were told that we can not enter Beirut with such a cargo.

The captain of the ship said that during the time he spent with other crew members in the port, he saw how ammonium nitrate cargo on another vessel was unloaded in the port of Beirut. He said:

They said that the cargo was of lesser concentration, so such cargoes were allowed in the port, but we had a cargo with a higher concentration [of ammonium nitrate]. Therefore, it was forbidden to unload our cargo on the territory of Lebanon. That’s all, that was the explanation. They knew everything very well.

The former Rhosus captain also mentioned that the vessel, which delivered the cargo of ammonium nitrate to the port of Beirut, sank about two years ago:

There was a breach in the forepeak. The hole was about four-five millimetres in diameter but it was located in a hard-to-access place. Only a diver could access the breach and fill in a gap. But no one sent a diver. The water was filling forepeak every now and then. Once in a while, we were pumping the water out.

According to Prokoshev, the owner of the vessel, Russian citizen Igor Grechushkin, who, supposedly, lives in Cyprus, left the vessel and the crew when the troubles began. He said that Grechushkin not only left Rhosus crew without salary but also ignored to pay forfeit and harbour dues, which are mandatory:

The agent had arrested the ship, saying that it would be under arrest until Grechushkin paid the port fees and the penalty for not taking the cargo. That’s how we ended up under arrest. So, the ship was next to the Sarina steamer — it was about a month since we had been there. Six people had already left and gone home, and four of us remained there.

The former Rhosus captain also added that the vessel entered the port of Beirut in 2013 and got stuck there for a few years. The remaining crew members managed to leave the vessel in August 2014, and the ship was abandoned. The local authorities transported the cargo to the port warehouse after the crew departed. Boris Prokoshev concluded:

The [administration of] the port knew, that this vessel was carrying such a dangerous cargo, that this ship was of great danger for the port. When they found out that the owner of the vessel had an intention to retrieve the ship, if I were them, I would have given him some extra money, a hundred thousand dollars, for example, so he could spare the port from the peril. But they detained the vessel. And so, he put his hands up and said: “Ok, you detained the vessel, so fiddle with it yourselves!”


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