The Bosphorus: Growth of oil shipping and marine casualties

Necmettin Akten

Institute of Marine Sciences and Management, Istanbul University, Müsküle Sokak No.1, 34470 Vefa, Istanbul, TURKEY


The Turkish Straits, for the last 10 years at least, have been turned into one of the key shipping foci of the world seaborne oil trade. Nearly 123 million tons of oil passed through the Strait of Istanbul in 2002, representing 5 per cent of the world oil trade by sea. Number of crude carriers passed through the Strait that period, up or down, was 6022. The Strait of Istanbul is the most congested sea lanes in the World. On a daily basis an average of 142 vessels (or nearly 12 vessels an hour) navigates through the Strait. When local or domestic traffic is taken into account, almost another 2.000 crossings ‘a day must be added to the figure above. Shipping traffic in the Strait was 4125 transits in the year 1841. There are now an average of 25.000 transits per year in each direction including inter alia, tankers, chemicals, product tankers, LNG and, LPG carriers – the largest size passing through being ISO to 160.000 tonners fully laden or vessels of around 300 metres in length partly laden. Almost one-third of the total transits are the local ships passing through the Strait. ‘ Oil tanker is the ship which appears most likely to cause major environmental damage. In the case that one of the ships involved in a collision accident is a tanker or a vessel carrying dangerous cargo major pollution problem is likely to occur. Similar incidents have also occurred in the Bosphorus, such as with the World Harmony, Peter Zoranic, Norborn, Lutsk, Independenta, Nordic Faith, Blue Star, Nassia, Jambur to mention a few. Around 200.000 tonnes of oil has been spilt into the Bosphorus and its approaches from these casualties alone. Whatever the nature of a casualty, it takes more serious shape and effect in a confined area. Shipping accidents of today have become more “environmental” and the issue has been though than ever for all parties concerned. potential risks and perils already exist in the Bosphorus. With current heavy shipping traffic and growing crude oil shipping, not only is the risk of pollution increasing, but also the probable impact of a tragic disaster. Ships of increased size and carrying hazardous cargo bring further implications on the safety issue.

Keywords: Bosphorus, marine casualties, pollution, tanker

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