Istanbul, Turkey (PortSEurope) May 1, 2019 – The construction works for Canal (Channel, Kanal) Istanbul project, linking the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara (and the Mediterranean Sea), north and south of Istanbul, is expected to start by the end of 2019, according to Turkish media, but there is no official confirmation from the government.
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 Bosphorus, where traffic congestion leaves ships queuing for days off to transit the strait.
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 Canal 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. Canal Istanbul will run parallel 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 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoga, the new canal is his “crazy project”.
The Canal 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 the east of Terkos Dam. The width of the canal will change from 250 metres to 1 km allowing manoeuvring space for ships.
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 Canal Istanbul is expected to be over $20 billion. 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 in revenue per year from Canal Istanbul, thanks in part to a service fee for transits.
According to Turkish media, in the past 10 years, six out of 10 of the world’s largest projects were undertaken in Turkey. Canal 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: Canal Istanbul (width 150 m; length 50 km, beam max 77.5 m); Panama Canal (width 62.5 m; length 80 km; beam 51.2 m); Suez Canal (width 205 m; length 193 km; beam 51.2 m).
Canal Istanbul project includes also construction of ports (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. The artificial islands will be built using soil dug for the canal. The Halkali-Kapikule high-speed train, TCDD 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 (on June 24, 2018) would be the construction of Canal 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 and construction is expected to start before the end of 2019. 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, is firstly based on trade. Supporters hope that Canal 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.
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