CMA CGM says one worker missing, several injured following Beirut blast

French container shipping company CMA CGM, which has deep roots in Lebanon, has launched an emergency plan to conduct a thorough health and safety assessment of its 261 staff members based in Beirut, following the deadly explosion that wreaked havoc across Lebanon’s capital.

Illustration; Image by Navingo

“At this stage, the preliminary toll shows two seriously injured and many minor injuries. One member of our staff at the port is currently missing. We are doing our utmost, in collaboration with the local authorities, to find him,” CMA CGM said.

The group’s headquarters in Lebanon, located a few hundred meters from the site of the explosion, was severely damaged.

The 11,400 TEU containership CMA CGM Lyra, which was in operation on Tuesday evening in the Port of Beirut, some 1.5 kilometers from the explosion was not damaged and none of its crew were injured in the blast, CMA CGM said.

CMA CGM, with its subsidiary CEVA Logistics, have offered the Lebanese and French governments logistics and maritime assistance in order to respond to the emergency.

“The Group is ensuring everything is in place to guarantee perfect business continuity and to maintain the supply of primary necessities to the country,” a company statement reads.

“An operational organization has been put in place to establish a logistics hub in Tripoli, Lebanon.”

All the company’s ships have been diverted to Tripoli or other terminals in the region until further notice.

“In order to maintain business continuity, the Group has organized 3 recovery sites, of which two are in Beirut and one in Tripoli,” CMA CGM noted.

“Finally, we would like to salute the solidarity expressed by the Group’s staff members and partners around the world.”

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) said yesterday it was still collecting information on the extent of the impact that the horrific blast has had on its affiliates and their members in Lebanon – at the port, on nearby vessels and in the surrounding area.

“Tragically we have been informed that dockers and seafarers have lost their lives, and many workers have been injured. Given the extensive damage to the port precinct, including the destruction of the office of the Lebanese Seaman’s Syndicate, sadly we expect the death and injury toll to rise,” ITF said. 

ITF President Paddy Crumlin and ITF General Secretary Stephen Cotton pledged international solidarity and support from the ITF, its affiliates, members, officers, and staff to its Lebanese affiliates.

ITF affiliated unions in Lebanon include the General Confederation of Drivers and Transport Workers in Lebanon (GCDTW), the Union of Beirut Port Employees (UBPE), the Syndicate of Middle East Airlines and Affiliate Companies (MEA), the Lebanese Cabin Crew Association (LCCA) and the Lebanese Seaman’s Syndicate (LSS).

Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) also expressed condolences to those affected by the explosion.

“We want to communicate that our staff and their families are safe, and that no MSC seafarers were in the port at the time of the explosion. We are grateful to report that our staff are currently able to work remotely from home and that no MSC vessel was in the port at the time of the explosion,” the company said.

“MSC is in close contact with the terminal operator to understand the extent of any damage to the infrastructure and equipment and when the terminal will be operational again.”

Based on the latest update from GAC Lebanon provided to Offshore Energy-Green Marine, rescue teams are still working on moving the rubble as a lot of people remain missing.

“In the meantime, the Lebanese Armed Forces have closed all entrances to the port and are at present assessing the damages,” the update reads.

Data from Dryad indicates that four vessels in the vicinity of the blast were damaged. As disclosed, Sierra Leone-flagged Mero Star reported its hull has been breached, and injuries have been incurred. The Bangladeshi-flagged BNS Bijoy has also reported damage, and up to 21 sailors have been injured. The cruise ship Orient Queen has sunk in the port as a result of the damage caused, resulting in two of her crew being killed.

“Following the near-destruction of Beirut port, Tripoli port is now serving as Lebanon’s main port. However, questions remain as to the readiness of the Tripoli port. Tripoli port is currently operating at 40% capacity, and will likely serve re-routed vessels,” Dryad said.

Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines said that that two Filipinos died from the explosion, while another eight Filipinos suffered injuries.

“Two of those injured are currently recuperating at the Embassy Chancery after receiving treatment from a hospital. They are part of a group of 13 Filipino seafarers whose ship was docked some 400 meters away from the blast zone,” DFA informed.

“The other eleven, as of this reporting, have been reported missing. In addition, another Filipino Household Service Worker has been reported to be missing as well, bringing the total number of missing Filipinos to 12.”

The death toll which currently stands at around 130 hundred people is likely to further increase over the coming days, according to the Lebanese Red Cross. Around 4,000 people are said to have been injured.

The blast is believed to have originated from a chemical storage warehouse where an estimated 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate got ignited. The material has reportedly been confiscated in 2013 from the Moldovan-flagged cargo vessel Rhosus, which failed port state control Inspections. 

The explosive material was stored without proper safety measures and stayed there despite numerous warnings from local officials to move the dangerous material from the port.

CNN reported that the Director of Lebanese Customs requested the dangerous cargo be removed from the port in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.