Tianjin explosion to cause shipping disruption

A massive explosion which ripped through a shipyard in the Chinese port city of Tianjin is likely to cause significant disruption to regional shipping.

The port, located in the city’s Binhai New Area, is the tenth largest shipping facility in the world and serves as the as the primary port for the Beijing area.

While the extent of the damage is not yet fully known, it would appear as if parts of the port have sustained major damage.

Despite the blast occurring inland, and not destroying crucial loading facilities, a large amount of goods in transit from the port have been completely destroyed.

This includes around 10,000 cars, produced by automakers like Volkswagen, Hyundai and Kia which were incinerated in the blast. The losses from these vehicles alone could reach $100 mn if not much higher.

Alongside these goods, the port represents a significant offloading point for many of China’s primary resource imports. Coal, iron ore, oil, and other commodities critical for industry are imported at this facility.

Should it be shut down for any significant period of time, this would cause large knock-on effects for Chinese manufacturing, due to shortages in raw material.

One factor which could pre-empt a longer term shutdown of the port is the potential toxic contamination of the site.

On Saturday, the Chinese government enforced a mandatory 3km exclusion zone around the blast site, following fears that area was heavily contained with Sodium Cyanide.

Several hundred tons of this chemical were reportedly stored in the same warehouse from which the explosion originated. This is particularly worrying for authorities as it can form deadly Hydrogen Cyanide gas when dissolved or burned.

Final death toll still not known

Despite more than half a week passing since the deadly blasts, the Chinese government has yet to finalise the death toll from the accident.

At the time of writing, the official toll stood at 112 people confirmed dead, with another 95 officially ‘missing’.

Of these 95 missing people, 85 are reported to be fire-fighters who were some of the first responders on the scene.

As well, authorities are still struggling to discover the exact chain of events which lead to the largest explosion, which was measured to be equivalent to 21 tonnes of TNT.

Artisit, Liu Bolin's depiction of the Tianjin disaster - image courtesy of Liu Bolin and the Kleinsun Gallery.
Artisit, Liu Bolin’s depiction of the Tianjin disaster – image courtesy of Liu Bolin and the Kleinsun Gallery.