Russia state-run media agency TASS is confirming a Russian businessman is behind what led to the explosion in Beirut that killed over one hundred and wounded many more.
Entrepreneur from Khabarovsk turned out to be the owner of the Rhosus ship from which, allegedly, ammonium nitrate that possibly exploded in Beirut’s port was confiscated, the Seafarers’ Union of Russia reported on its website on Wednesday, reported TASS this morning.
“In 2013, a bulk cargo ship sailing under Moldovan flag was carrying hazardous cargo from Batumi to Mozambique and made an unplanned call to Beirut. There the motor vessel was detained by the port authorities due to the technical violations of operations. Simultaneously the crew consisting of Russian and Ukrainian citizens appealed to the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) complaining that their employer, a Cyprian Teto Shipping company from the beginning of the contracts had not been paying their salary. <…> In response to the ITF address, the ship’s owner, a businessman from Khabarovsk, promised to sell the ship and settle the debts,” the statement said.
Lebanese authorities in 2014 confiscated 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate from a Moldovan ship called the Rhosus, the country’s LBCI television channel reported overnight, citing sources at a Supreme Defense Council meeting, reported The Moscow Times. The Rhosus is owned by Igor Grechushkin, a Russian national and resident of Cyprus, Mediazona cited the ship’s crew members as saying.
The Russian father of one, currently reported to be living in Limassol, Cyprus, was accused by the crew of his ship in abandoning both the people and the cargo. The ship called Rhosus was going under the flag of Moldova from Batumi in Georgia to Mozambique. It was detained in October 2013 by Lebanese authorities after it stopped in Beirut due to a malfunction on board. The cargo was checked and detained after the port authorities said it was ‘lacking documents and conditions necessary for transportation.’ The crew – eight Ukrainian and two Russian men – was forced to stay on board of the vessel while the owner Grechushkin declared himself bankrupt and ‘abandoned the ship’. Lebanese authorities agreed to let six out of ten sailors to leave the country, others were left stranded on the ship for almost a year, reported The Siberian Times.
According to the professional union, at first the port authorities were not giving permission to unload the hazardous cargo. By March 2014, only the captain, chief and third engineers, and the boatswain remained aboard. “Then the sailors said that in addition to the ship’s detention and the unpaid salary, the crew was also worried by the fact that the Rhosus carried particularly dangerous cargo – ammonium nitrate. Beirut’s port authorities refused either to unload the cargo or to move it to a different vessel,” the statement said.
In the summer of 2014, during the meeting with a consulate official, director general of land and maritime transport Abdel Hafiz El Kaissi reported that Lebanese authorities began to review the issue of repatriation of the Rhosus crew combined with the issue of the sale of the vessel and its explosive cargo, wrote TASS.
“In the end, the court issued a permission to unload ammonium nitrate but the port agent M. Baghdadi continued to postpone the repatriation of sailors flat out refusing to hire the local technical crew. After some time the locals to unload the cargo were found, and the crew was allowed to return home. The staff of the Assol Sailors’ Support Foundation in Odessa assisted in repatriation, the statement noted.
To date, according to the information of the ITF inspector in Novorossiysk Olga Ananyina, the ship’s owner hasn’t paid the crew yet and the hazardous cargo was not disposed of properly over all this time.
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