The Kanal Istanbul mega project is seen as essential for maritime safety in the Bosporus, a waterway which has seen numerous vessel collisions over the years, risking lives and damaging property
The massive infrastructure development project Kanal Istanbul will play a significant role in precluding vessel accidents in the Bosporus, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Cahit Turhan said. “Kanal Istanbul is the project not only of today but also of the future. Kanal Istanbul is a project that will save the Bosporus from accidents,” he remarked in a statement to Anadolu Agency (AA) on Sunday. A ship accident last year wrecked havock along a historic waterfront mansion on the Bosporus revived discussion on maritime safety along the strait.
The project, originally announced by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2011, aims to reduce shipping traffic on the busy Bosporus, minimizing risks and dangers particularly associated with tankers. The new channel would further help prevent pollution caused by cargo vessels passing through or mooring in the Marmara Sea at the southern mouth of the Bosporus. “Through a variety of projects, we aim to protect Istanbul from possible dangers as well as to achieve a cleaner city. Every project we have implemented so far has enabled less exhaust emissions in Istanbul,” the minister said. According to the latest plan, the canal will be 45.2 kilometers long through Istanbul's Avcılar, Küçükçekmece, Başakşehir and Arnavutköy districts. The tender for the project will be held next year. Turhan pointed out that there is average annual traffic of 40,000-42,000 ships in the Bosporus, which currently has a capacity of 25,000 ships, adding that the ships that have to pass through the Bosporus have to wait for almost a week and that they make ships pass with guides and trailers to ensure safety. Recalling that accidents on the strait have caused great damage in the past, the minister said: “We still remember the disaster of the Independenta tanker ship, which carried 94,600 tons of crude oil and could not be extinguished for 27 days. We remember that the strait was covered in oil because of the collision of the Nassia and Shipbroker tankers. We also remember the ship crash into the Ethem Pertev Mansion just four years ago, and the great damage this inflicted on our history.” Between 1953-2003, 461 accidents occurred on the Bosporus. The deadliest accident was when a Romanian tanker and a Greek freighter collided and exploded in November 1979, killing 42 crew members aboard the tanker. The last major accident in the strait was in 2003 when a Georgian-flagged vessel ran aground, resulting in a spill of 480 tons of oil. A civilization process The transport and infrastructure minister stated that the amount of dangerous cargo passing through the Bosporus, especially oil, has exceeded 150 million tons and that the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea are home to an important portion of the global oil trade.
The statement posed a reminder that the Bosporus was currently considered one of the most dangerous waterways in the world, the minister continued: “With Kanal Istanbul, we will not only reduce the ship traffic load on the Bosporus, but also minimize the risks that may occur due to ships carrying hazardous substances along the Bosporus. We will also create an alternative for ships and tankers seeking to pass straight through the Bosporus without waiting. Ships carrying international cargo will be able to pass through the Kanal Istanbul for a fee. They will also get rid of the financial burdens that may occur due to waiting for a week.” Turhan pointed out that the number of ships using the strait has been increasing every year due to the shift of world trade to the east, emphasizing that the number of ships that will use the Bosporus is expected to reach 70,000 in the next two decades. Underlining that the new space to be established will be a self-sufficient environment-friendly project with its marina, free zone, waterway and airport, combining blue and green, Turhan stated: “With urban transformation, we will modernize the negative construction in Istanbul, which is located in an earthquake-prone region, in the fastest way. At the same time, it will be a self-contained civilization project, integrated with all sides of Istanbul.” Efforts to implement a perfect project According to the minister, the government had received alternative ideas from various institutions and organizations, as well as from nongovernmental organizations and universities, on environmental impact assessment. Recognizing criticism lodged against the project for political purposes, Turhan continued: “However, we cannot view this project from a political perspective. We have to think about the future of Istanbul. Therefore, we are proceeding very carefully on this project. Since the first day we started the project, we have been discussing every point of criticism in full length, and we proceed on our way after eliminating all the situations that could lead to anxiety. As a result of these meticulous studies we have been carrying out since 2011, we have received the positive opinions of a total of 52 institutions, including universities, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, district municipalities and public institutions.” Turhan stated that Kanal Istanbul was a mega project requiring work from various disciplines, adding: “Therefore, all kinds of engineering measures, urbanization and environmental impacts have been put on the table for nine years so that the project can be implemented without any problems, and we are trying to make the project perfect.” Turhan pointed out that they had been working with great devotion over the years to bring the project to Istanbul with "zero error" and said that they completed an additional 7,000 meters of drilling in the canal corridor in this process. According to the minister, traffic survey studies had been conducted taking on board the various ship dimensions able to pass through the canal, finding that 99% of all current Bosporus traffic could be transferred through the new waterway. Furthermore, the environmental impact, including that on local flora, fauna and underwater life, has been conducted. Turhan noted that the conceptual work of the infrastructure facilities belonging to the institutions on the route and the structures such as ports, marinas, coastal facilities and operating facilities, which are the supplementary parts of the project, have been completed. Turhan stressed that earthquake and tsunami risk assessment, hydrodynamics, water quality and groundwater model studies were also carried out on the selected corridor, adding that nothing had been left to chance. Indicating that works related to the Kanal Istanbul project had come to a final stage, Turhan added that a cooperation protocol was signed between the ministries and the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality for the determination and fulfillment of the tasks related to the projects of existing and planned institutions on the route.