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Beirut container terminal resumes operation

Customs clearing agents have been allowed back to the terminal and the first two ships have been worked

At least 20 containers believed to contain dangerous materials have been identified at the damaged port, according to chemical experts. Some are said to have been punctured and one is leaking

THE container terminal at the Port of Beirut has reopened a week after an explosion that devastated much of the city.

The first two containerships to call at the port berthed on August 10 as the box terminal began to resume operations.

The 2,670 teu Electra A, owned and operated by Turkish operator Arkas, had been sitting at the Beirut anchorage for two days. It has since left and is en route to Iskenderun.

"We discharged and loaded all full containers as planned without exception," a spokesman for Arkas said. "The surprising and pleasing news for us was that no damage was reported on any full export container. However, we cannot yet say the same for empty containers.

``While the operation of Mv Electra A was going on, the conditions of the empty containers was not clear yet. Therefore, empty containers were not loaded on this call."

He added that while the crew were not allowed ashore, the ship's master reported that the east part of the terminal was in good condition.

"When we compared the speed of the operation with previous calls, there was not a significant difference," he said.

Electra A was followed by the CMA CGM-operated 2,226 teu Nicolas Delmas. It called directly from Alexandria after apparently diverting to Tripoli, then diverting back to Beirut before discharging. It remained alongside this morning, according to AIS data from Lloyd’s List Intelligence.

Customs clearing agents were briefly allowed to enter Beirut’s container terminal, but were then asked to leave by the army.

Local Lloyd’s agent Capt. Jamil Sayegh said agents would be allowed in again today to recommence cargo clearance formalities.

The authorities declared a two-week state of emergency in Beirut and ordered the house arrest of 16 port officials pending an investigation.

Lebanese security officials warned the government in July that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in Beirut’s port posed a risk, Reuters said, citing documents.

The blast is known to have killed at least 163 people and injured 6,000, as well as destroying 6,000 buildings, leaving 200,000 homeless.

Following days of protests, the government resigned and will remain as a caretaker administration until a new cabinet is formed.

Chemical experts from France and Italy and local firefighters are working to secure at least 20 potentially dangerous chemical containers at the port after finding one that was leaking, the Associated Press said, citing a member of a French clean up team.

“There are also other flammable liquids in other containers, there are also batteries, or other kind of products which could increase the risk of potential explosion,” the worker said.

There has been “considerable damage” to empties sited at the terminal and to containers held in the customs inspection area, said Capt. Sayegh.

“As to the full containers, the damages are minor as the storage of these containers is located some 1,300 m to 2,000 m away from the epicentre of the blast,” he said.

He added that port staff had been able to restore power to reefer containers shortly after the blast.

Meanwhile, work has begun to clear three quays of debris from last week’s explosion to prepare them to serve smaller vessels.

“Discharge from these vessels is to be made on to trucks using their own gear, or what shore cranes survived the explosion,” said Capt Sayegh.

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