of ammonium nitrate detonated. Loss of cultural heritage, threat of toxic gases and environmental contamination for roughly 2.4 million citizens of Beirut.
Port of Beirut
hospital capacity of the city destroyed
to $4.6 billion damage to the physical infrastructure alone
In the case of the Beirut explosion, a cargo ship carrying ammonium nitrate was abandoned in the port in 2013, and the explosive cargo was eventually brought to shore and incorrectly stored next to explosives in Beirut’s harbour in a densely populated area for more than six years. Deeply rooted corruption and a weak governance structure contributed to a lack of action by those responsible. The explosion then affected a population which was already suffering under an over-stretched health care sector, struggling economy and the challenges of COVID-19, costing precious human lives and leaving behind traumatized families and communities. Following the explosion, COVID-19 cases spiked in Beirut, further stretching already scarce resources in the health sector. These abandonments are not only dangerous from the human rights perspective of the abandoned crews, but also because of the leftover fuel, hazardous cargoes and unattended ships that pose further risk for humans and the environment alike. The Beirut tragedy proves just how much disaster risk they carry.
Since the assassination of former president Hariri, political instability has remained. The conflict in Syria starting in 2011 has led to an economic downturn and an influx of more than 1 million refugees into Lebanon (now refugees account for nearly 30 per cent of the population). Currently, Lebanon is facing a financial crisis which increased strongly in 2019.
Further issues of safety and security for ship operators and port areas will emerge as issues of regulation and enforcement continue to go unaddressed. Human security demands strong international cooperation and taking responsibility.
Between 2004 and 2018 the ILO registered 400 separate incidents of cargo ship abandonments with crew members on board.