Beirut’s Giant Detonation and the Failed Delivery of Explosives Urges the Need to Re-Examine Trade Rules

Here is the story of ( of a failed delivery of highly explosive ammonium nitrate shipped from Black Sea port of Batumi, in Georgia and was supposed to reach Moçambique. The ammonium nitrate was purchased by the International Bank of Mozambique for Fábrica de Explosivos de Moçambique, a firm that makes commercial explosives, according to Baroudi and Partners, a Lebanese law firm representing the ship’s crew, in a statement issued on Wednesday. The Rhosus, an old leaky troubled ship transporting the volatile cargo of 2 700 tons of ammonium nitrate, arrived in Beirut in November 2013, two months after it left the Black Sea port of Batumi, in Georgia. The ship was leased by a Russian businessman living in Cyprus. Rhosus that never arrived to Moçambique, was embroiled in monetary and diplomatic disputes, after being deserted by the Russian who leased it. The ammonium nitrate was transferred to a dockside warehouse in Beirut, the place where it was left for years until the ammonium nitrate was set in a giant detonation and sending a shock wave that killed over hundred of individuals and wounded more than other 5,000. It was not a matter of if the explosive ammonium nitrate will blast or not but rather when it will do so.

Russian Federation and Georgia are among the top five countries by ammonium nitrate export in the world ( The others are being Lithuania, Bulgaria, and the United States of America. There are many countries around the world that import ammonium nitrate. The production of ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3), is produced by neutralizing nitric acid (HNO3) with ammonia (NH3). Besides being an explosive material it is also used as fertilizer as it is rich in nitrogen, its use as fertilizer is needed because of the ongoing degradation of soil quality worldwide. The sale of pure ammonium nitrate has been banned in countries such as Australia, Germany, Ireland, Pakistan and the United Kingdom where as India has reclassified it as explosive which has tightened regulation related to handling and storage ( There are cases of international disputes over the trade of ammonium nitrates, e.g. Russian Federation and Ukraine (

The catastrophic giant detonation of ammonium nitrate and massive destruction of Beirut, Lebanon ( calls the global community and in particular the UN, WTO and UN-FAO to have a close look on the global trade rules of ammonium nitrate by being an explosives and a fertilizer. These are key issues for promoting and achieving the UN SDGs.

The giant detonation which left much of Beirut in ruins.

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