The danger of explosions of ammonium nitrate at the nation’s seaports is low, as shipping service operators are required to follow regulations governing the storage of hazardous chemicals, Taiwan International Port Corp (TIPC) said yesterday.
The storage of hazardous chemicals came under scrutiny worldwide following the catastrophic explosion of ammonium nitrate in Beirut, Lebanon on Tuesday last week, which killed at least 220 people and injured more than 6,000.
Large quantities of the explosive chemical — 2,750 tonnes in total — had been stored in a warehouse in the Port of Beirut for six years and were accidentally ignited, according to reports.
Ammonium nitrate is used as a basis for fertilizers and explosives for mining and demolishing buildings, the company said, adding that the chemical must be stored in a dark and dry environment and kept away from sources of heat.
However, it is not listed as a highly hazardous chemical that must be transported away from a seaport within 24 hours after being unloaded from ships, according to the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code, the company said.
In an inspection on Thursday last week of warehouses in all of the nation’s international seaports, the company found 53 storage containers with ammonium nitrate, including 11 at the Port of Keelung, 28 at the Port of Taichung and 14 at the Port of Kaohsiung, it said, adding that no seaport stored highly hazardous chemicals in its warehouses.
The inspection also found that the port company has not regularly updated the maps of seaports and particularly maps of locations where hazardous goods are stored, it said.
It also found that some hazardous goods were inadequately separated from other items, and signs indicating the storage of chemicals were in some cases weathered and unreadable, it said, adding that it would address these issues to comply with Port and Maritime Bureau guidelines.
Article 36 of the Commercial Port Law (商港法) requires port companies to remove highly hazardous goods in a timely manner, as their storage might compromise the safety of the port area, the port company said.
In case such items cannot be transported away due to closures of access roads, the company said it would store them separate from other goods.
Owners of the hazardous items or their authorized agents must stay vigilant on site, and workers handling these items must wear protective gear and carry communication equipment in case of an emergency, it added.
Areas in which such items are handled, should also be equipped with fire safety and disaster relief facilities, the company said.
The company has formed a task force to oversee the loading, unloading, delivery and storage of goods such as ammonium nitrate, it said.
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