Massive explosion on ship at major global port in Dubai

Authorities in Dubai say a massive explosion on a container ship anchored at one of the world’s largest ports sent shockwaves across the UAE’s commercial hub.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – A massive explosion struck a container ship anchored in Dubai at one of the world’s largest ports late Wednesday, officials said, sending tremors to the United Arab Emirates’ commercial hub.

A fire sent huge orange flames on a ship at Jebel Ali port, the busiest in the Middle East, which is located on the eastern side of the Arabian Peninsula.

The combustion triggered a shock wave rippling through the skyscraper city of Dubai, shaking walls and windows in neighborhoods 25 kilometers (15 mi) from the port. Panicked residents filmed from their high-rises as a fiery ball illuminated the night sky.

There were no immediate reports of casualties at the port, which is also the busiest port of call for American warships outside the US.

About 2 1/2 hours after the explosion, Dubai’s civil defense teams said they had brought the fire under control and had begun a “cooling process”. Officials posted footage on social media of firefighters drowning in large shipping containers. Flashes of fire were visible in the background as civil defense teams worked to douse the fire.

The extent of the damage done to the vast port and surrounding cargo was not immediately clear. Subsequent footage shared on social media showed charred containers, ashes and piles of garbage.

The rapid force and visibility of the explosion suggested the presence of a highly flammable material. A Dubai police commander told Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV that the fire appeared to have started in a container containing “combustible material”, without detail.

Mona Al-Marie, director-general of the Dubai Media Office, told Al-Arabiya that the incident “could happen anywhere in the world” and that authorities were investigating the cause.

Jebel Ali Port, located at the northern end of Dubai, is the largest man-made deep water port in the world and serves cargo from the Indian subcontinent, Africa and Asia. The port is not only an important global cargo hub, but a lifeline for Dubai and the surrounding emirate, serving as a point of entry for essential imports.

Dubai authorities did not identify the affected vessel, other than saying it was a small vessel with a capacity of 130 containers.

Ship tracker MarineTraffic showed a fleet of small support ships surrounding a docked container ship called Ocean Trader in the Comoros. Footage from the scene, re-broadcast by the United Arab Emirates’ official WAM news agency, showed firefighters bringing down a ship with paint and logo matching Ocean Trader, operated by Dubai-based Injou Ship Charter.

Ocean Trader landed at Jebel Ali Port on Wednesday afternoon. Ship tracking data shows that the ship had been sailing up and down the UAE coast since April. The United Nations Ship Database identified the ship’s owners as Sachs Shipping Corporation. Sachs and Inzoo Ship Charter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Operated by Dubai-based DP World, Jebel Ali Port has four spacious container terminals that can berth some of the largest ships in the world. Port officials said they were “taking all necessary measures to ensure that the normal movement of ships continues without any disruption.”

DP World describes Jebel Ali Port as a “gateway hub” and “an important link in the global trade network” that connects the eastern and western markets. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the explosion.


Associated Press writer John Gambrell in Hamilton, Ohio contributed to this report.


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