Middle East Cruise News

Lebanese cruise operator files lawsuit against state after only ship destroyed by blast

Merhi Abou Merhi, the owner of the Orient Queen cruise ship through his company Abou Merhi Cruises, has filed a lawsuit against the state seeking accountability for those responsible for the deadly Beirut blast that sunk the line’s single cruise ship Orient Queen.

The massive explosion that dealt damages in excess of US $5 billion to the Lebanese capital, killing more than 130 and injuring an additional 5,000 people, also killed two crew members from the ship, according to the cruise operator.

Orient Queen sunk at her berth after taking the full impact of the massive explosion

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Seven crew members aboard the ship were wounded after the one kiloton explosion, equivalent to a small nuclear bomb, destroyed 300,000 people’s homes in the city. The blast was caused when 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded in a warehouse just a few hundred metres from where the Orient Queen cruise ship was docked.

“Entrepreneur Merhi Abou Merhi, the owner of the Orient Queen cruise ship, has filed a lawsuit against all those responsible for this catastrophic blast,” the state-run National News Agency reported.

The lawsuit has been described as the first of its kind and could pave the way for similar legal action in the coming days and weeks. However, with the Lebanese state in the grip of an economic meltdown and the currency skyrocketing against the dollar, it’s unclear how the state would pay any damages awarded.

Orient Queen previously sailed as Vistamar

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Orient Queen was a small cruise ship by modern standards, with capacity for just 300 guests, but she was immensely popular with the Lebanese cruising public prior to the suspension of cruises due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The ship was docked in her home port at the time of the explosion and took the full force of it on her port side, leaving her severely damaged and taking on water. She later capsized at her berth.

Orient Queen was severely damaged by the shockwave from the explosion and began taking on water in the hours afterwards

No passengers were aboard the ship at the time of the disaster, and had she been operating her usual itinerary of Greek Island cruises, it’s likely the ship would have been at sea anyway.

Extensive damage was also reported at the head office of Abou Merhi Cruises, at the start of Bliss Street in Beirut’s Hamra area.

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