Ship traffic through the Bosporus rose in 2021, according to official data released Tuesday as Turkey moves forward with a plan for an alternative waterway to ease the burden.
The number of ships, including tankers, passing through the strait, which links the Black Sea to the Marmara and the Mediterranean beyond, increased by 147 to 38,551, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry data showed.
Transits by ships longer than 200 meters (650 feet) and chemical tankers – which are among the main reasons why an alternative route, called Kanal Istanbul, is needed to prevent possible dangerous accidents – both hit their highest on record, at 5,306 and 2,701 respectively.
Kanal Istanbul is set to relieve congestion and improve safety on the Bosporus by diverting large ships with dangerous cargo away from population centers.
The canal will connect the Black Sea north of Istanbul to the Marmara Sea to the south, designed as an alternative global shipping lane, and estimated to cost around TL 75 billion ($9.2 billion).
The government says it will ease shipping traffic on the Bosporus, one of the world’s busiest maritime passages, and prevent accidents similar to that of Egypt’s Suez Canal, where a giant container ship became lodged and blocked the channel for almost a week.
Championed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and revealed in 2011, Kanal Istanbul is one of Turkey’s most strategic megaprojects.
The 45-kilometer (28-mile) canal, which will be built in Istanbul’s Küçükçekmece-Sazlıdere-Durusu corridor, will boast a capacity of 160 vessels a day and is expected to create significant economic value by reducing transit periods and costs, in addition to passage fees.