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How Tripoli’s port ‘stepped in’ after ‘apocalyptic’ Beirut blast | Lebanon News

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Tripoli, Lebanon – On August 4, several ships were making their way through the Mediterranean Sea towards the port of Beirut to offload shipments of wheat, medicine and steel, among others.

But when the clock struck 6:08pm in Lebanon, a huge explosion at Beirut port’s now-infamous Hangar 12 sent strong shockwaves through the sea. They were felt all the way to Cyprus.

Caused by the detonation of nearly 3,000 tonnes of unsecured ammonium nitrate, the explosion created what many describe as an apocalypse, wreaking unprecedented havoc across the city. In a flash of a second, thousands of buildings were destroyed, at least 180 residents were killed, and about 6,000 people injured.

At sea, port authorities and ship owners quickly communicated with their captains, directing them further north along the Lebanese coast towards the port of Tripoli.

For more than a week, ships carrying goods to Lebanon – a country that imports about 80 percent of what it consumes – docked in Tripoli instead of Beirut.

With Beirut port receiving 70 percent of all the country’s imports before the incident, many observers expected Tripoli’s smaller port to falter.

But the northern port, known for its vital role as a transit point for sea trade to Iraq and Syria, stepped in fully for Beirut, taking on a vital economic role for the country.

The quick response and efficient flow of goods into Tripoli saved Lebanon from an impending food crisis, said Tripoli’s port authorities, and kept the small Mediterranean country’s already-struggling economy afloat. 

Tripoli steps in

From August 4-12, Tripoli’s port became the main destination for ships carrying general cargo and containers carrying everything from food, medicine and building materials to Lebanon.

“Tripoli’s port was working at only 40 percent of its capacity before of the incident,” said Ahmad Tamer, general manager of Tripoli’s port, explaining that years of political instability in the region – and more recently the coronavirus pandemic – had significantly slowed down the economy. 

“And so when the blast hit, we were more than capable of filling in for Beirut,” he said.

He added the redirection of Lebanese imports to Tripoli helped ensure that Lebanon did not go hungry.

With about 85 percent of Lebanon’s wheat supply usually coming through Beirut’s port, the United Nations’s food programme had predicted the country would run out of bread in two-and-a-half weeks after the blast.

But that was not the case. “Everyone expected a wheat crisis, but we filled in and received the shipments,” said Tamer.

Tamer explained that although Tripoli’s port is relatively smaller compared with Beirut’s, its “logistical infrastructure and services” were advanced enough to allow it to manage the instant increase in the volume of goods.

While Tripoli’s receipt of the majority of Lebanon’s imports was only needed for a short time, Tamer said it had the capacity to take on the role of filling in for Beirut “for several months” rather than just a week, “without any compromise on quality of services”.

A port employee trains on a container crane in Tripoli’s port [File: Bilal Hussein/AP]

Division of labour

About 10 days after the blast, which wiped out Beirut’s port and much of the city, the facility was relatively back on its feet and capable of taking back most of the containers it used to receive. 

According to Hassan Dannoui, acting chairman and general manager of Tripoli’s special economic zone, while vessels carrying containers have returned to Beirut, the majority of cargo and bulk shipments continue to dock at Tripoli’s port.

“We’ve gone back to the pretty much the same situation before the blast, except that the volume of cargo coming to Tripoli is higher,” said Dannoui.

According to Tamer, the port manager: “Before the explosion, Tripoli was taking 50-60 percent of all general cargo coming to Lebanon, but now we are receiving 80-90 percent of it.”

Ports usually take in materials, for import and export purposes, at two main cargo terminals – the conventional cargo terminal, which specialises in bulk goods such as wheat, grains, building materials; or a container terminal that deals with goods shipped inside steel containers. 

Unlike cargo, goods imported in containers usually do not need further storage facilities at the port.

According to figures in 2019, Beirut port’s carrying capacity for containers was at least 1.3 million, whereas Tripoli’s stood at about 300,000-400,000. Estimates given by both ports indicate that Tripoli and Beirut have a similar capacity for cargo.

While the cargo terminal is important, it is considered commercially and strategically less valuable to the container terminal. 

Back to Beirut

“Beirut’s port is back 100 percent,” Bassem el-Kaissi, the general director of the port of Beirut, told Al Jazeera, explaining a task force cleared the port docks and repaired cranes and other equipment to allow for the return of most containers.

El-Kaissi was appointed on August 11 after an arrest warrant was issued against the port’s former manager, Hassan Koraytem, as part of the investigation into the blast.

He said while loading, offloading and the transport of goods have gone back to normal, storage at Beirut port remains the main problem after 21 warehouses were destroyed.

Despite the destruction, the workflow has been relatively smooth at Beirut’s port, according to businessmen and customs workers.

Bassem Bawab, the owner of an import company in Lebanon, said although the movement of goods is now slower than before the blast, work has been rather efficient.

“The process of getting our goods out of the port and to our own warehouses takes more time and money than before because the administrative offices have been affected,” said Bawab. “Otherwise, work has been fine.”

Because Bawab only uses containers to transport his goods and has his own warehouses in the city, ships carrying his goods returned to Beirut as soon as it was operational again.

And unlike other cargo companies that may need storage, he has been mostly unaffected by the fact that Beirut’s port has lost its free zone and storage facilities in the blast.

“Companies that do need storage have to pay more for storage outside the port,” said Bawab.

Another service affected by the blast at Beirut port are customs, which have been relocated to Beirut’s Rafic Hariri airport after the blast.

According to Wael Kabbani, a partner at a company dealing in customs clearance at Lebanon’s port and airports, although the lack of administrative buildings at the port make customs clearance a little more time consuming, the process has been smooth because of the smaller volume of imports coming through Beirut.

“The effects of the blast haven’t been huge because the economy had shrunk for several months,” said Kabbani. “The volume of cargo we’ve been clearing since the start of 2020 has been about 60-70 percent less than before.”

An internal assessment completed by Beirut port authorities on August 27 indicated the damage caused by the blast will require up to a year and $1bn to repair, said el-Kaissi.

Port politics

Although many have commended Beirut port’s quick return to operation, others believe more needs to be done to ensure those responsible for the explosion are held accountable.

According to Bassel Salloukh, an associate professor of political science at the Lebanese American University, the port of Beirut in many ways embodied the political economy of corruption and sectarianism in Lebanon after the civil war.

“The way the sectarian system invites the lack of accountability, the lack of transparency, and corruption … these put together led to the explosion in Beirut,” he said.

Lebanese economic journalist Mohamed Wehbe agreed. “The structure of Beirut port is modelled around, and a reflection of, the confessional system in the country.

“It was established to represent the political and economic groups that have gained and maintained financial power after the civil war,” he added.

Judicial investigator Judge Fadi Sawan has issued at least 25 arrest warrants as part of a continuing investigation into the explosion.

None of the politicians in charge when the chemicals were stored at the port since 2013 has been interrogated.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million

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Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe

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A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.



Source – observer.ug

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News

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Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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