Beirut ammonium nitrate explosion: Falmouth Docks responds

The owners of Falmouth Docks have spoken to reassure people after the explosion in Beirut on Tuesday was put down to ammonium nitrate.

More than 130 people are reported to have died and around 5,000 injured as a result of the explosion in the capital of Lebanon – which the Lebanese government has said was caused by the same chemical once stored at Falmouth Docks.

The Lebanese authorities have said 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate had been taken from a ship off the coast of Beirut six years ago and then placed in a warehouse that was the epicentre of the explosion – with questions raised over how it was stored.

Back in 2013 plans were put in place to limit the amount stored at Falmouth Docks to more than three times this amount – up to 14,000 tonnes.

On its own ammonium nitrate is relatively safe to handle but if large amounts are stored for a long time it can start to decay.

However, a spokesperson for A&P Falmouth, which operates the docks, confirmed that the chemical, which is most commonly used as a source of nitrogen in fertiliser, is no longer kept there.

A spokesperson said: “We don’t store store ammonium nitrate on site at A&P Falmouth. It’s been at least five years since we have had any on site.”

Back in 2013, when the docks was still storing ammonium nitrate, changes were introduced that included reducing the amount stored to no more than 14,000 tonnes.

At the time it was said that making the changes, which also included altering how it was stored, would shrink the so-called “blast zone” that restricted development around the yard.

Read next: Fertiliser plan would reduce Falmouth Docks ‘blast zone’

Peter Child, then managing director of A&P Falmouth, told town councillors at that time: “The docks imports fertiliser and has done so for 30 to 40 years.

“In 1992, it was recognised that ammonium nitrate was a potentially dangerous product and we had deemed consent from the council to handle it.

“That has continued, but there have been issues with health and safety.

“We have talked to the Health and Safety Executive and agreed an improved way of handling it which will further reduce the risk

Read next: Changes to how potentially explosive fertiliser is stored at Falmouth Docks

Falmouth Packet | News