Istanbul, Turkey (PortSEurope) February 7, 2020 – The zoning plan for the giant Kanal (Channel, Canal) Istanbul project, linking the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara (and thus the Mediterranean Sea), north and south of Istanbul has been approved, paving the way for the start of its construction in 2020, Turkish Transport and Infrastructure Minister Cahit Turhan said at a press conference in Ankara. He
also confirmed the December 2019 statement of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the tender will be launched within months in response to multiple statements of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu that the project wouldn’t fit the city and is “unnecessary”. “A number of international companies and credit agencies have expressed interest in Kanal Istanbul. Firms from Russia, China, the Netherlands and Belgium are interested in the project,” Turhan said. “We will protect the Istanbul Strait from accidents and dangerous shipments. We will keep the Istanbul Strait open to sea traffic but provide an alternative to it”. The development plans for Kanal Istanbul are to be completed by August 2020. The 45 km (nearly 28 miles) canal, an artificial sea-level waterway, will be built in Istanbul’s Kucukcekmece-Sazlidere-Durusu corridor. It is projected to have a capacity of 160 vessel transits a day – similar to the current volume of traffic through the parallel Bosphorus Strait, where traffic congestion leaves ships queuing for days off to transit. The new channel will not be subject to the international treaty, the Montreux Convention from 1936, that limits the access of warships to Black Sea, considered by Russia as its strategic backyard. The Turkish strait is a natural passage, where ships have freedom of navigation. However, transit through the man-made Kanal Istanbul would be regulated by Turkey. Non-Black Sea state warships in the straits must be lighter than 15,000 tonnes, and no more than nine non-Black Sea state warships may pass at any one time and they can stay in the Black Sea for a maximum of 21 days. The Turkish straits, including the Dardanelles, the Bosphorus and the Marmara Sea, connect the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas to the Black Sea states of Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania and Georgia. Kanal Istanbul will run in addition to these straits. Russia is keen to limit the rights of passage of navy ships in its Black Sea territorial waters and does not want to change the status of the Montreux Convention. Maritime powers, the U.S., the UK and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), advocate strongly for freedom of navigation. For Erdogan, the new canal is his “crazy project”. For many observers the project depends on financial institutions “crazy enough” to fund its construction by Turkey which is in the middle of an economic crisis. The Kanal Istanbul route would start from Kucukcekmece Lake, which is located between Istanbul’s districts of Esenyurt and Avcilar on the European side of the city, and will continue to the north passing Istanbul’s Sazlidere Dam and will reach the Black Sea from east of the Terkos Dam. The width of the canal will vary from 250 metres to 1 km allowing manoeuvring space for ships. A total of 41,112 vessels passed through the Bosphorus Strait in 2019, Turkish Transport Ministry reported. Some 43,000 vessels crossed the Bosphorus, one of the most strategic waterways of the world, in 2017 (that number has decreased in the past decade), making it one of the busiest maritime passages in the planet. The Bosphorus has nearly three times the traffic of the Suez Canal. The total cost of Kanal Istanbul is expected to be between $12 and $20 billion (€10.9-18.2 billion) (including the related infrastructure, buildings and tunnels). It is scheduled for completion in 2023, for the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish Republic. The government is expecting to generate $8 billion (€7.3 billion) in revenue per year from Kanal Istanbul, thanks in part to a service fee for transit. According to Turkish media, in the past 10 years, six out of 10 of the world’s largest projects were undertaken in Turkey. Kanal Istanbul would be the largest construction project of the decade globally. Here is a comparison of the new project with the two most famous man-made waterways in the world: Kanal Istanbul (width 150 m; length 50 km, beam max 77.5 m); the Panama Canal (width 62.5 m; length 80 km; beam 51.2 m); and the Suez Canal (width 205 m; length 193 km; beam 51.2 m). Kanal Istanbul project includes also construction of ports (a large container terminal in the Black Sea, close to the huge new Istanbul airport), logistic centres and artificial islands to be integrated with the canal. Artificial islands will be built using soil dredged from the canal. The Halkali-Kapikule high-speed train, TCDD (Turkish railways) train projects as well as Yenikapi-Sefakoy-Beylikduzu and Mahmutbey-Esenyurt metro lines in Istanbul, and the D-100 highway crossing, Tem highway, Sazlibosna highways are also to be integrated with the canal project. Financing the canal is expected to be via a build-operate-transfer model, but could also be funded through public-private partnerships (PPP). President Erdogan said previously that the first initiative of his government after winning parliamentary elections (June 24, 2018) would be the construction of Kanal Istanbul which will reduce shipping traffic, particularly oil tanker traffic, passing through the busy Bosphorus Strait. The mega project would include three underwater tunnels for cars. Project studies have already been completed. Approximately 7 km of the canal route will be located within the boundaries of Küçükçekmece, some 3.1 km within the boundaries of Avcılar, approximately 6.5 km within the borders of Başakşehir and the remaining 28.6 km will be within the borders of Arnavutköy District. The justification behind this hugely expensive project, which will permanently alter the geography and urban spread of one of the largest cities on Earth (more than 15 million people live in Istanbul), is firstly based on trade. Supporters hope that Kanal İstanbul will relieve shipping traffic from the already congested Bosphorus, increasing capacity for shipping to and from the Black Sea. Approximately 1.5 billion m³ of earth will be excavated and more than 115 million m³ of material will come from the sea and bottom screening. Environmentalists caution that because the Marmara Sea more salty than the Black Sea, a change in the salinity once they are joined could alter sea currents and temperatures, destroying marine life as a result. The project will increase oxygen levels in the Black Sea, impacting the wildlife population and the natural ecosystem so vital for marine animals. The Turkish Green party (Yeşiller ve Sol Gelecek Partisi) has urged the government to immediately stop the Kanal Istanbul project, saying that the Black Sea and its ecosystem is a shared natural asset and cannot be destroyed forever. Channel Istanbul bears the risks of highly affecting the surrounding ecosystem including the natural equilibrium of the Black and Mediterranean Seas. It claims that if this project materializes the balance will be reversed between the cold and fresh waters of the Black Sea and the warm and salty waters that come from the Mediterranean Sea. Adding a second tap between these seas will lead to Black Sea being emptied twice as fast with two taps while the flow rates and capacities of the rivers that feed the Black Sea stay the same. Another devastating effect of this project is the deforestation of one of the most important forest areas west of Istanbul, according to the Green party. This will have a major impact on the climate of the region. And not only Turkey is affected, the consequences of Kanal Istanbul will affect all the Black Sea littoral states as well as Greece. Between 1953 and 2003, 461 accidents occurred on the Bosporus. The deadliest accident occurred 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. Copyright (C) PortSEurope. All Rights Reserved. 2020.