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After Blast, Port of Beirut Gets Back to Business

beirut explosion port
Aftermath of the Beirut explosion, August 5 (Courtesy Freimut Bahlo)

By The Maritime Executive 08-27-2020 04:35:25

The Port of Beirut is getting back up and running again, despite the obliteration of its central silo pier and an adjacent warehouse district in an explosion earlier this month. The port's director told Lebanon's National News Agency on Thursday that the port is regaining its normal footing, though other officials say that much remains to be done.

Efforts to clear away mountains of debris and two shipwrecks from the port's quaysides are now under way with the assistance of French forces. About 7,800 tonnes of rubble has been removed so far, but some areas cannot yet be cleared due to an active investigation, officials said. Col. Youssef Haidar, commander of the Lebanese forces involved in the wreckage removal process, told Arab News that the port's operating capacity (as of August 27) was at about 45 percent. 

The container terminal, which is located well to the east of the blast site, received little damage and returned to operations on August 10. Port officials told Arabian Business this week that the container side of the port is operating at about 80 percent of normal capacity.

The effort to restore and rebuild the port has no shortage of international assistance. This week, Port of Rotterdam director René van der Plas visited Port of Beirut to examine the damage and offer his expertise. Port of Rotterdam's staff is helping the World Bank to assess the damage and look for ways to optimize use of the port's resources.

“With the rebuilding or redevelopment of Beirut Port, we should not only take the time to think very carefully of what’s needed, but also of what would be the best solutions to create sustainable socio-economic value,” Van Der Plas told NNA. "The top priority should be to enable Beirut Port to provide the country with short-term needs, especially those related to the import of vital goods. I think that the team of the container terminal has done a magnificent job getting this terminal back in operation."

A Lebanese-led investigation into the circumstances of the blast continues with assistance from international partners. Xinhua reports that Lebanese investigators have arrested four more port officials in connection with the blast, including director of operations Samer Raad, head of safety and security Ziad al Awf and customs agents Khaled al Khatib and Elias Shaheen.