One time the accident, another the fog… since the beginning of the year, at least twice the Bosporus Straits crossing had to be interrupted. More specifically, on April 27, the Turkish authorities had to order the closure of the Straits due to dense fog and then to allow only the passage of the ships going north, that is from the Marmara Sea to the Black Sea. In that particular there were only 75 ships that had to cross…

Οn May 3, there were similar weather conditions; the overall number of vessels, following a direction both to the north and to the south, waiting to cross were 103… It took authorities four days to restore the normal operation of the crossing. But traffic is usually much higher…

In the meantime, the possibility of an accident complicates things even more, as it happened in early April when a ship was drifted to the shore, hit the land on the Asian coast of Istanbul, and due to the impact, a restaurant was destroyed. The passage of tankers from the Bosphorus Straits and the Dardanelles due to these events becomes dodgy, bringing to surface an older demand by environmental organizations – and not them only – for the revision of the Montreux Convention and the need to look for alternative routes.

When the above mentioned incident occured, the President of the Bosporus Energy Club, Mehmet Öğütçü, spoke to Anadolu News Agency, expressing the need to find a satisfactory solution. He had noted: “[…]since the sighing of the Montreux Convention of 1936, the volume and number of ships crossing has increased spectacularly, something that raises serious security issues”. He added that “the matter is urgent now”.

For example, according to figures of Turkish sources, the number of ships in transit in 1934 was 4,500, while in 1998 it was 49,304 and in 2017 was 87,593, of which 13,732 were LNG and LPG carriers. The truth is that the LNG industry has radically changed the Energy Charter. At the same time, oil and petroleum products have also increased sharply.

Central Asian oil producers, such as Kazakhstan, have the opportunity to export oil through this route and the Straits; About 3 million barrels of crude and 20 million tones of petroleum products cross the Bosporus every year. The figure is expected to increase even more in the coming years, as it is estimated that oil production in the Caspian and Central Asian countries will be boosted, especially in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. Experts foresee that, as long as this trend is stabilised there will be an increase in LNG loads.

Could the pipelines be the solution?

The promotion of projects such as the “Southern Corridor”, made up of the TANAP (Trans-Anatolian pipeline) and the TAP (Trans Adriatic pipeline), to export Azeri gas to Europe or the Turkish Stream gas pipeline, which is being promoted by Russia, as well as the already existing Blue Stream, which also transports Russian gas to Turkey, are a solution to the problem. Nevertheless, the increase of oil and natural gas production in the coming years will render this solution only as complementary…


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