Ship carrying ammonium nitrate behind Beirut blast passed through Istanbul
Nerdun Hacıoğlu - MOSCOW
The thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate, stored in a warehouse at Beirut’s main port, which most likely caused the catastrophic explosion that killed more than 135 people in the Lebanese capital was transferred from Georgia to the city via the Istanbul and Çanakkale straits in September 2013, according to Maritime Bulletin, a news site that covers stories about merchant ships.
“Seven years ago, the cargo ship called MV Rhosus loaded with nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate left the port of [Georgian city] Batumi to go to the African country Mozambique,” Maritime Bulletin editor Mikail Voytenko said in a report.
“The Moldovan-registered ship passed the Turkish straits and sailed to the Mediterranean, but due to a technical breakdown, it anchored in the Beirut port,” added Voytenko.
According to the report, it was then when the series of strangeness began.
Lebanese officials initially did not allow the ship to leave the port because the liner bill of lading was fake. Later, Igor Grechuskin, the Russian businessman who owned the ship, declared bankruptcy and left the ship abandoned.
The buyers from Mozambique had not asked for the ammonium nitrate to be shipped to them since then, the report added.
“Neither Grechuskin nor the Russian Foreign Ministry did not make any attempts to rescue the four Russian workers that were stranded on the ship for years,” added the Russian editor.
After the catastrophic explosion that destroyed much of Beirut, Moldovan officials chimed in to lift the responsibility off their shoulders.
“The bare boat charter made with Grechuskin for the ship Rhosus ended in September 2014. So at the time of the explosion, the ship was forlorn,” said Vadim Povolaki, the deputy manager of the Moldovan Military Maritime Agency, meaning that no one involved in the ship’s transport to Lebanon was responsible for the explosion as it had been there for seven years.
Grechuskin currently lives in Cyprus.