Hundreds of boats sailed through the Bosphorus on Sunday with activists from several environmental nongovernmental organizations aboard to protest the oil tankers and large vessels that pose risks to maritime safety in Istanbul's strait.
Boats adorned with banners reading, "No to Death Ships" and "Safety Before Disaster" were accompanied by the Coast Guard to prevent an accident in the crowded waterway.
The protest is held every year to draw attention to potential disasters threatening both Istanbul's residents and its environments.
Turkey's straits are among the most at-risk waterways in the world, according to experts. Over 50,000 vessels, including tankers carrying highly flammable oil, pass through the Bosphorus, an S-shaped channel with sharp turns and changing currents that pose challenges for vessels and sailors, every year. In compliance with the 1936 Montreux Convention Turkey has to allow open access for all civilian vessels through its straits in peacetime.
However, accidents concern the country. From 1953-2003, 461 accidents occurred on the Bosphorus.
The deadliest accident was when a Romanian tanker and a Greek freighter collided and exploded in November 1979, killing 42 crewmembers aboard the Romanian 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.
To change the course of vessels with potentially dangerous cargo, the government plans to build Kanal Istanbul, an ambitious project that will see the construction of a channel through the city's European side.
The main purpose of the project is to reduce marine traffic through the Bosphorus and minimize risks and dangers particularly associated with tankers. International pressure is growing to increase marine traffic tonnage through Turkey's straits, which brings risks for the security of marine navigation during passage.