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Cablegate: Turkish Straits at Capacity

VZCZCXRO8543
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHIT #0115/01 0460956
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 150956Z FEB 07
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6607
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHDA/AMCONSUL ADANA PRIORITY 2293

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ISTANBUL 000115

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EWWT EPET SENV TU
SUBJECT: TURKISH STRAITS AT CAPACITY

ISTANBUL 00000115 001.2 OF 002


1. Summary: On February 11, Capt. Salih Orakci, General
Director of the Coastal Safety and Salvage Administration
briefed A/S Sullivan and members of the EPC delegation on the
hazards of navigating the Turkish Straits and the operation
of the Vessel Traffic System (VTS) in the Bosphorous Straits.
Capt. Tuncay Cehreli, Manager of the Istanbul VTS Center,
and Dr. Nilufer Oral, maritime law expert at Istanbul Bilgi
University, also assisted with the briefing. Orakci told
Sullivan that the Straits were currently at capacity. Poor
quality crew aboard a large proportion of ships combined with
the inability to mandate pilots and/or tug boats for
transiting ships meant that a catastrophic accident could
occur "at any time." End Summary.

2. EEB A/S Dan Sullivan and members of the U.S. delegation to
the third U.S. - Turkey Economic Partnership Commission
delegation requested a briefing on the environmental and
safety challenges facing the Government of Turkey as it copes
with a large volume of oil tanker and other hazardous cargo
traffic through the Turkish Straits. On February 11, Capt.
Salih Orakci, General Director of the Coastal Safety and
Salvage Administration, and Capt. Tuncay Cehreli, Manager of
the Istanbul VTS Center, briefed the group on their agency's
efforts to administer safe passage of the straits.

3. The Turkish Straits are 164 nautical miles (NM) in length,
stretching from the Black Sea to the Aegean. The Bosphorous
(Istanbul Strait) comprises 17 NM and the Canakkale Strait 37
NM. The remaining 110 NM span the distance between the two
major straits in the Sea of Marmara. The Vessel Traffic
System (VTS) system, purchased from Lockheed Martin, has been
fully operational since December 2003. The VTS system has
assisted in gathering information about ships that transit
the Straits as well as in improving the safety of navigation
and protecting the marine environment by reducing the
frequency and seriousness of maritime accidents, according to
Cehreli.

4. From 2003 to 2006 the annual number of ships transiting
the straits has hovered just under 55,000 with approximately
10,000 of those carrying hazardous cargo, a level that both
Orakci and Cehreli argue represents the full capacity of the
Straits. In 2006 10,153 vessels carrying 143,452,401 MT of
hazardous cargo transited the Bosphorous. This included over
95 million MT of crude oil, almost 40 million MT of refined
petroleum product, 4.5 million MT of LPG and 3.5 million MT
of chemicals. Over 98% of vessels carrying hazardous cargo
through the straits are southbound from Black Sea ports and
over half of these are loaded at Novorossiysk, a port which
accounted for 903 tankers carrying 75 million metric tons of
hazardous cargo in 2006. By contrast, Cehreli noted that in
2006 the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline carried 8.9 million
MT of crude oil or approximately 80 tanker loads. He
acknowledged that BTC began operation partway through the
year and was not yet operating at full capacity but argued
that even at capacity BTC would have no real effect on
straits traffic, which has a capacity of 100 million MT of
crude oil annually. Noting that from a technical perspective
pipelines are safer than maritime transport, Orakci stressed
the need for additional alternate routes to take the pressure
off the Turkish Straits.

5. The Bosphorous is one of the most crowded, difficult and
potentially dangerous waterways in the world. Strong
currents and counter currents, sharp turns and the need to
course correct twelve times during the transit make passage
hazardous even in good weather conditions. However, although
the International Maritime Organization strongly recommends
the use of a pilot in the Turkish Straits, under the
provisions of the 1936 Montreaux Convention and the 1982 Law
of the Sea Agreement pilotage is voluntary, Cehreli
explained. As a result only 36% of transit vessels take a
pilot in the Bosphorous and less than 2% use an escort tug.
According to Prof. Nilufer Oral of Bilgi University, even
though the Turkish Straits are an international waterway, the
current maritime law regime permits the Turkish Government to
enforce certain measures to maintain safety. These measures
include provisions requiring vessels to utilize adequate
radio and navigational aids, separation and overtaking
requirements designed to avoid c
ollisions and other precautionary measures such as daylight
only transits for vessels carrying hazardous cargo.

6. Despite these precautions failures are a frequent event in
the Bosphorous. On average a vessel suffers a mechanical or
navigational failure every 2.5 days. More alarmingly, at
least one vessel greater than 200M in length fails every year
in the Bosphorous. In 1998 the Romanian tanker Independanta
collided with a general cargo vessel at the lower end of the
Bosphorous causing a massive explosion that killed 43 people
as well as a major oil spill. In February 2006, the Liberian
flagged Genmar Star carrying 86,000 MT of kerosene lost its

ISTANBUL 00000115 002.2 OF 002


rudder and came within 60 meters of running ashore at the
historic Dolmabahce Palace. Genmar Star was carrying a pilot
who helped anchor the ship while VTS Center staff dispatched
tugboats to arrest the vessel's drift toward shore, thus
averting a major accident. Orakci told Sullivan that the
next major accident in the straits is more a question of if
than when, and that he worries every time his telephone rings
in the early morning (when the majority of hazardous cargo tr
ansits occur.) Orakci argued that poorly trained personnel
were at least as much of a threat as aged vessels or poor
equipment. Cehreli noted that a collision involving two
small general cargo vessels could cause a major accident if
it occurs just in front of a fully loaded oil tanker.

7. A/S Sullivan did not clear this message before departing.
JONES

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