Beirut port boss puts blast damage at $350m, upbeat on future

Director Bassem Al Qaissi says Beirut port will retain strategic geographic position despite impact of August 4 explosion

The overall damage caused by the explosion is thought to be in the range of $3.8-4.6 billion, while the economic losses are estimated to be between $2.9-3.5bn.

Beirut Port will never lose its strategic geographic position and is irreplaceable even after the huge blast on August 4, according to its boss.

Port director Bassem Al Qaissi spoke to Arabian Business amid rising concerns in Beirut about the ongoing normalisation talks with Israel which raises the question of whether the Port of Haifa, the largest in Israel, may impact shipping movements in the future.

Beirut port operating at 80% capacity, three weeks after blast – sources

Beirut Container Terminal Consortium sources tell Arabian Business nearly 12,000 containers were unloaded between August 11-24

Lebanon and Israel last week agreed to a framework for US-mediated talks aimed at ending a long-running dispute along the border between the two nations that have fought several conflicts.

Haifa is one of the largest ports in the eastern Mediterranean in terms of freight volume and handles about 30 million tons of cargo per year.

But, two months after the explosion that devastated parts of Beirut, Al Qaissi revealed to Arabian Business that a new international public tender for the management and operation of the container terminal at Beirut port will be launched “with new terms for the best benefit of the port”.

Port director Bassem Al Qaissi

It is understood that the French company CMA CGM is favourite to win the contract for the reconstruction and investment in Beirut port.

He added that traffic rates and port fees were modified after the explosion in order to increase the competitiveness of the port.

Al Qaissi estimated the total damage to port facilities at around $350 million “with significant damage to logistics buildings in the free zone and to administrative buildings”, adding that there are currently no warehouses for dry goods.

“Storage capacity is only at 40 percent of what it was before the explosion, which completely destroyed the port’s warehouses. Another year is needed for the storage area to be fully operational again,” he added.

Lebanon's Tripoli port readies to fill in for blast-hit Beirut

Tripoli port’s capacity is smaller than Beirut’s, through which the vast majority of Lebanon’s food and other imports used to transit

On August 4, a large quantity of ammonium nitrate stored in Beirut port exploded. Approximately 2,750 tonnes of highly flammable substance – commonly used in fertiliser – had been abandoned without proper safety measures for the previous six years, following its confiscation by Lebanese authorities from the abandoned ship MV Rhosus.

The disaster killed roughly 200 people, wounding 6,000 more, as the blast sent shock waves through Beirut’s industrial waterfront into densely populated residential and shopping districts.

The overall damage caused by the explosion is thought to be in the range of $3.8-4.6 billion, while the economic losses are estimated to be between $2.9-3.5bn. As a result, total damages and losses exceed $8bn, according to the latest estimates by the World Bank.

Al Qaissi added: “The container terminal is functioning to load and unload normally. So far by the end of September we have handled 92,000 TEU and received 100 vessels. All ship lines returned to normal shipping to Beirut port. The shipping movement figures are almost the same as for August alone compared to July and August 2019.”

A large fire erupted at Beirut port on September 10, just weeks after the massive blast was limited to the free zone which was “highly affected”, causing a “lot of loss in merchants’ goods”, he said.

Al Qaissi added that the port administration has introduced stringent new regulations and security measures to avoid such incidents in the future.

A circular has been issued by the Beirut Port Administration to all traders and importers requesting them “not to import or store any inflammable materials or goods that pose a threat to public safety, without prior permission from the official laboratory accredited by the country of origin to those imported goods concerned”.

Regarding plans for reconstruction and port investment, Al Qaissi said: “What is needed for construction are warehouses and a free zone and three buildings for customs and administration. Therefore, the total reconstruction is incorrect. Container terminals account for 70 percent of port revenue.”

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

Source: Read Full Article