Cablegate: Got Claims Vessel Traffic System Not Fully

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

141505Z Nov 03





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1. (SBU) Summary. Turkish Maritime Undersecretariat
officials told us that the testing phase of the Vessel
Traffic System (VTS) in the Istanbul area would have to be
extended beyond the end-October deadline due to technical
problems. Turkish Coastal Safety and Ship Rescue Management
Director General also has confirmed the delay. The GOT is
working with the contractor, Lockheed Martin, to resolve any
difficulties; however, Lockheed insists that there are no
major outstanding problems. Unlike the Istanbul region where
the contractors have completed both construction and
training, the Canakkale region has yet to be completed. Some
shippers maintain that the Istanbul system is operational
with only minor technical problems while complaining that
politics is becoming a problem due to GOT concerns over
hazardous material traffic through the Turkish Straits.
Although full implementation of the VTS system will improve
traffic safety in the Turkish Straits, this government is
trying to downplay public expectations that the system is
totally foolproof and also quell widespread speculation that
the Straits could automatically accomodate more tanker
traffic. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Martime Undersecretariat officials told us on
October 24 that the testing phase of the VTS system, which
began on 20 June, would not be completed in October as
initially planned and may not even be ready for prime time
before the end of the year. One of the main complaints
involves the system integration software because the hardware
was procured from both local and international firms. For
example, the cameras were bought from a Turkish firm, and the
GOT officials say that the cameras often malfunction,
disrupting the systems record and replay capability.

3. (SBU) Another problem involves the charting system, which
Lockheed had contracted to a local firm; according to the
Maritime authorities, it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint
the exact location of ships. They note, for example, that
the faulty VTS electronic charts showed the ship that ran
aground in the Istanbul Straits in mid-October had passed 150
km offshore. In contrast, these officials credited the VTS
system with effectively detecting accidents on November 11,
which allowed the relevant GOT authorities to take
precautionary measures during bad weather conditions.
Nonetheless, Maritime officials maintain that the GOT has a
contractual relationship with Lockheed, not with the
subcontractors, and expect the company to adress these
problems. To this end, they have forwarded a list of the
problems to Lockheed and are working closely with the
engineers to resolve the problems. Moreover, the Maritime
Undersecretariat officials hinted that the GOT would consider
delaying full acceptance of the project if these outstanding
issues are not handled in a timely manner.

4. (SBU) The $225 million VTS system consists of two areas
of the Turkish Straits, Istanbul and Canakkale, with a total
of 16 remote sensor sites; 8 in the Straits of Istanbul, 5 in
the Straits of Canakkale, and 3 in the Marmara Sea. There
also are 4 VHF-DF communications sites, 5 Radar beacons
(RACON) stations, and 1 dGPS reference station in the Black
Sea and another in the Aegean Sea. The main Vessel Traffic
Center, which is located in Istinye on Istanbul's European
side, hosts the supervisor and operator traffic consoles,
administrator console, track correlation, database, and
expert system processing, controls all sensors, communication
and recording systems, and interfaces with external users.
Under the VTS system, each ship is required to have a
functional radar system from the Black Sea to Canakkale;
equipment is loaned to ships lacking the proper devices and
detailed information about the cargo and crew are collected
for the VTS database.

5. (SBU) On October 22, Lockheed Martin told us that they
have officially delivered the Istanbul VTS stations to the
GOT and have completed the legally required training of
Turkish personnel, but the Canakkale section remains under
construction. Lockheed admitted that the VTS system is not
as efficient as it could be, given the complex nature of the
Turkish Straits. Nonetheless, the contractor is fully
satisfied that the system would improve traffic safety in the
Istanbul and Canakkale area. The contractor cautioned that,
while the system does not give the GOT law enforcement
capability over the Turkish Straits, it gives the authorities
an advisory role over ships transiting the area and is a
deterrent to illegal activity. (Comment. Despite the
Montreaux convention, which defines the Turkish Straits as an
international waterway and does not recognize Turkish
sovereignty, the GOT maintains that the Straits is not a
pipeline for tankers and continues to seek ways to regulate
shipping, promote Baku-Tibilisi-Ceyhan as an alternate route
for oil, and protect the environment, historical buildings,
and Istanbul's 12 million population. End comment).

6. (SBU) The Maritime officials argued that the VTS system
was acceptable but not totally satisfactory. In their view,
an efficient system would result in shorter waiting periods
for ships instead of automatically facilitating larger
volumes of traffic through the Turkish Straits. These
officials admitted that political pressure was growing, in
part due to the lengthy and costly waiting periods for ships
in the Black Sea, Marmara Sea, and Canakkale. They told us
that shippers incur costs of about $25,000-$45,000 due to the
long wait period, and some shippers' associations already
have registered complaints with the Ministry of
Transportation. The Maritime authorities also said that the
stakes are high for this government with upcoming local
elections, which are scheduled to be held in Spring 2004,
because the previous government had wrongly raised public
expectations and convinced Istanbul residents that the VTS
system would be foolproof.

7. (SBU) In conversations with shippers on November 7, we
learned that the VTS system is improving safety, despite some
minor problems. Shippers noted that freighters are allowed
to transit the Straits without restrictions even with zero
visibility. Some of the freighters have 155,000 dead weight
ton capacity and are roughly 280 meters, roughly the same
size of many tankers. Turkish authorities, however, do not
take even a small risk with tankers and subject them to
lengthy waiting periods. Because freighters are not subject
to the same restrictions as tankers, the shippers we
contacted argued that passage through the Turkish Straits has
become more of a political issue than an environmental safety

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