After Beirut blast, spotlight on 740 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored near Chennai port

Hazardous material: The Customs Department is planning to auction the stock kept in Manali in a few days.

Hazardous material: The Customs Department is planning to auction the stock kept in Manali in a few days.  

Days after the explosion caused by ammonium nitrate killed over 100 and left thousands injured in Beirut, the spotlight is now on 740 tonnes of the explosive chemical stored at a container freight station near Chennai port.

While officials at the port said the substance was not stored on the premises, Customs officials said the chemical was imported by a Karur-based firm in 2015 and since the company did not have a licence, the material was seized and stored in 37 containers at a facility in Manali.

The officials said the facility was located 20 km from the city and there was no residential locality within its 2-km radius. “It has been safely stored and we did an inspection; also, we are following all precautionary measures,” a Customs Department official said.

Also read: What is ammonium nitrate, which authorities claim to be behind the Beirut blast

Asked why such chemicals had been kept for so many years, the Customs officials said removing the consignment involved an elaborate process. “We will auction these chemicals soon to someone who has the licence to buy them,” he added. Police sources said Fire and Rescue Service officers were planning to post two fire engines at the spot.

B. Govindarajan, chief operating officer of the Chennai-based Tirwin Management Services (P) Ltd., involved in training persons to safely handle dangerous cargo, said there should be a systematic way of auditing to ensure that such chemicals are not stored for a long time.

“If it is stored for a period, then at least the authorities should ensure that they are not stored in a congested area. The audit should monitor the safety precautions and carry out regular inspections to see how they are stored and their condition,” he added.

Fiat to Customs offices

The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs on Thursday asked field offices to verify within 48 hours the safety of explosive material stored in various warehouses and ports. This direction was posted on the Twitter handle of the Board.

Watch | Massive explosion in Beirut

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2020 2:50:46 PM |

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