Shipping Sails On As Coup Roils Turkey
As a military coup roiled Turkey on Friday night, the government declared martial law and a curfew across the nation. Armed forces blocked off the two bridges between the east and west halves of Istanbul, and Turkish news agency Dogan reported that soldiers had opened fire on people trying to cross.
But despite the tense situation above on the bridges, marine traffic sailed on below, apparently unaffected: as of 0100 hours Saturday (local time), multiple merchant vessels were entering or transiting the strategic Bosphorus Strait, including the bulkers Virgo Colossus, Nord Beluga and Nikolaos GS, the freighter Raouf H and the product tankers Minerva Xanthe, Riroil 5 and Bithav. Merchant vessel movements at Turkey's largest port, Mersin, also appeared to proceed normally based on AIS signals.
Many cruise lines have pulled back from Turkish port calls in recent months due to a series of high-profile shoreside terrorist attacks, leaving few additional sailings to cancel due to the coup. So far this year, Celebrity, Windstar, Cunard, Seabourn and Princess have all dropped port calls in some or all of Turkey's ports. In advertised offerings, Seabourn still retains a departure from Istanbul on August 5, and the 2,000-passenger Holland America vessel Eurodam is set to call in Istanbul on July 23 on a sold-out cruise.
So far, the lines have not released updated statements regarding scheduled port calls in Turkey.
The U.S. State Department cautioned American citizens to avoid areas of conflict and exercise caution, and reported that flights at Ataturk International Airport had been halted. Aviation news sources reported chaos at the airport as flights were diverted and travelers found themselves unable to depart.
Turkish government and military leaders issued conflicting statements about the nation's status on Friday. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke to CNN via a smartphone video connection and called on the Turkish people "to gather at public squares and airports." Erdogan's location is unknown; an official said he was speaking from Marmaris on the Turkish coast where he was on holiday. but aviation specialty news source Airlive said that they had information that Erdogan's private jet had departed the country.
Gunfire was heard in the capitol of Ankara, and state-run news agency Anadolu said military helicopters had fired on the headquarters of the intelligence agency; Reuters journalists saw tanks open fire near the parliament building. Social media images showed protesters in the streets, some interceding with soldiers and others climbing onto tanks, armored personnel carriers and self-propelled artillery.