BEIJING • The Binhai New Area in Tianjin, northern China, is a giant logistics hub more than twice the size of Hong Kong.
Wednesday night's blasts incinerated a vast area, torching thousands of cars that were left lying in neat rows alongside mountains of crushed shipping containers.
The area is one of China's most important ports and industrial zones, hosting auto plants, aircraft assembly lines, oil refineries and other service and production facilities.
It is also a major car trans-shipment point.
About 10,000 imported cars were destroyed, according to the Qilu Evening News - 2,748 from German manufacturer Volkswagen and more than 1,000 built by France's Renault.
Tianjin handled containers amounting to more than 14 million 20-foot equivalent units last year, according to the Binhai website.
Operations at the port were "basically paralysed" by the blast, the official China Securities Journal said in a report.
The massive explosions have hit iron ore import operations, as well as disrupted oil tanker arrivals and departures.
Industry officials said oil and gas facilities at the port had not been affected, but the Tianjin Maritime Safety Administration said oil and chemical tanker arrivals and departures had been disrupted.
A crew member on board the 317,713-deadweight tonne Very Large Crude Carrier Samco Europe confirmed that they had been told to stop discharging their crude oil cargo at about 3pm yesterday.
"The port authority told the ship to stop because there is still a risk of explosion due to the fire. They wanted all activity stopped," said one of the officers on board the ship, adding that it was unclear when reloading could restart.
Reuters shipping data showed there were more than two dozen tankers in the Tianjin port region, either waiting to get in or leave the harbour zone.
The docks at the port also have massive iron ore unloading capacity, making it a key desti-nation for the tens of millions of tonnes of iron shipped from Aus-tralia that are destined for Chinese steel mills.
Mining giant BHP Billiton said in a statement that while its iron ore discharging berth had not been damaged, its port operations and its shipments were disrupted.
Europe's Airbus said it was assessing the impact on port operations.
It has an assembly line for its po-pular A-320 aircraft in the area and said yesterday the blast was far from the facility and caused no immediate damage.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS