On August 4, at least 137 people were killed and more than 5,000 others injured as the whole city was shaken by a blast, which began as a fire at the port and exploded into a mushroom cloud. In what had been described as a huge catastrophe, Lebanon’s President, Michel Aoun said 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate had been stored unsafely in a warehouse for six years and had caused the blast. Lebanon observed an official period of mourning for three days from Wednesday.
Managing Director of PNG Ports, Fego Kiniafa, said the explosion was an unfortunate incident for Lebanon and fellow port workers at the port of Beirut. “On behalf of the Board, Management and staff of PNG Ports, I would like to express our sincerest condolences to the families and friends of our fellow port and marine industry workers who were working during the unfortunate time of the blast.”
“It is an unfortunate incident, as we, at the ports, strive to ensure zero hazards all the time. Our prayers are with you all during this time of hardship,” Mr Kiniafa said.
Mr Kiniafa also assured the people of PNG that at any time, under no circumstances, where explosive materials, including ammonium nitrate, passed through the ports, there were strict laws and guidelines to ensure safe handling, storage, monitoring and transporting.
“PNG Ports ensures that explosive consignments are loaded onto vessels last to ensure they are unloaded first at the next port of call under a ‘first on, first off’ rule for handling explosives and dangerous goods. Any explosives which come into a port facility operated by PNG Ports, go direct to a Department of Transport certified off port facility referred to as a magazine.
We are confident of the measures put in place throughout our network of ports, and our ports are safe under the existing strict operational guidelines, however, the incident in Beirut highlights the need to be ever vigilant in ensuring safety protocols are adhered to so that there is no chance whatsoever of such an incident at any of our port facilities” he said.
PNG Ports has been in operation before World War two and has been safely, efficiently and effectively facilitating maritime trade for the Pacific through the provision of berthing, pilotage and wharfage services.