Bosphorus Reflections                   Back to Shipyard Workers
By Tim Akpinar

Appearing in The Maritime Advocate August 9, 2005
Reprinted with permission from
The Maritime Advocate


Text File
Archive File Viewable at Maritime Advocate.com Issue 217

TIM Akpinar writes, “The Bosphorus and Dardanelles are among the world’s
busiest straits. Roughly 50,000 vessels transit the Bosphorus every year. That’s
a vessel every ten minutes. With large tankers virtually passing through
peoples’ front yards, allisions between ships and homes have become an
unpleasant reality. The narrow straits have become so congested that the
Turkish government has been forced to ban nighttime transits for ships
exceeding 600 feet.

“The surge in both the size and quantity of vessels has forced Turkey to assess
if “business as usual” will lead towards a crisis. A particularly bizarre aspect of
the transit through the straits is that although it includes numerous tortuous
turns (some of which are tighter than 90 degrees), seven knot currents, and
700 metres of width at the narrowest point of the Bosphorus, vessel owners can
turn up their noses at the notion of using a marine pilot. This is because the
straits are recognized as international waters in peacetime, although they run
through Istanbul, one of the world’s most crowded cities.

“This paradoxical co-existence is rooted in the Montreaux Treaty of 1936. When
the treaty was implemented, only about 4,500 vessels a year passed through the
straits. With vessels easily exceeding 100,000 tons regularly using the straits
today, the 1936 arrangements are arguably anachronistic and have led to
tensions between Turkey and its Black Sea neighbors.

“The combination of large tankers, a confined ecosystem, the absence of
mandatory pilotage, and urban congestion of the Istanbul shores are all factors
that pose serious concerns for maritime and environmental planners. In 2003,
a $45 million vessel traffic system was implemented to reduce marine
casualties. Oil pipelines are also part of the scheme to ease the overburdened
straits.”

There are those who feel that there is a high risk of catastrophic accident,
which may be just one explosion away.

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