Turkey imposes new navigation rules for Bosporus
Turkey has imposed new navigation rules for the heavily travelled Bosporus Strait, moving to eliminate competitors in
the race to carry Caspian Sea oil to world markets.
The strait, which is less than a half-mile wide, is the sole access to the Mediterranean for tankers sailing from Black Sea, the link to the Caspian and its huge reserves of oil.
Turkey, which says increased tanker traffic would lead to collisions and oil spills, is seeking to build a oil pipeline through its territory to carry Caspian oil that would skirt the Bosporus.
Both Georgia and Russia also propose pipelines to carry oil from the Caspian. Their plan would include moving oil from the Black Sea through Bosporus aboard tankers.
Under its new rules, Turkey can stop traffic when currents are unfavourable in the strait, stop any ship on legal
grounds, require more ships to use local pilots, impose traffic regulations on military ships and demand more advance
notice for the passage of ships.
"It would also make the Bosporus option as the main export route for Caspian oil economically irrational," said State Minister Burhan Kara, who's in charge of maritime affairs. He said Turkey also retains the right to increase the current transit fees five-fold.
When Turkey imposed other restrictions on Bosporus shipping in 1994, Russia criticised them as violations of
international rules giving all ships have freedom of passage in the straits during peacetime.
Kara's announcement coincided with a meeting of officials from Turkey and Azerbaijan to put the final touches on agreements for the construction of Turkey's pipeline.
The plan is backed by the United States, which prefers to see the oil from the Caspian passing through Turkey, rather than Iran, which has also proposed a route.