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Erdogan Vows to Build Bosphorus Bypass Canal

By MarEx 2016-07-19 21:05:04

In the wake of the failed coup attempt in Turkey last Friday night, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated his intention to push forward an artificial bypass canal to augment the shipping capacity of the congested Bosphorus.

"These projects will be pushed ahead rapidly," he said, referring to the canal and to other infrastructure initiatives. Turkey is simultaneously pursuing multiple large-scale infrastructure projects in the region, including the Third Bridge over the Bosphorus, now well under way, and the Istanbul New Airport, which will be the world's largest upon completion. 

Turkey's parliament approved the new canal in April, allocating land and laying the groundwork for construction tenders later this year.  

The canal project, announced in 2011, was estimated by outside experts to cost in the range of $40 to $50 billion. By comparison, the Panama Canal expansion cost $5 billion (accounting for cost overruns) and the Suez Canal expansion cost $8 billion. 

Erdogan has estimated cost at $10 billion, a figure that experts Stratfor describe as "not realistic for a project of this magnitude." The plan is controversial, but Erdogan has vowed that it will get done. “Kanal Istanbul will be built. We will build Kanal Istanbul. Regardless of what anyone says, we will build it,” he told a conference on urban planning in April.

Planned dimensions are 27 yards deep by 165 yards wide, large enough for vessels to 300,000 dwt, with traffic volume of up to 150 ships per day. It would include a new city centered on the canal. 

Traffic on the Bosphorus has risen in recent years due to rising oil production at Caspian Sea fields, which is shipped via pipeline to ports on the Black Sea and loaded onto tankers for export. Turkey has proposed a number of its own pipeline initiatives to parallel the Bosphorus, but so far these have not moved forward.

During the coup attempt, soldiers barricaded the two suspension bridges over the Bosphorus. AIS signals indicated that traffic continued on the strait below. Ships' agents GAC told media that the strait was briefly closed to tanker traffic during the civil unrest, but that other vessels had not been affected.  

In related news, 14 vessels of the Turkish Navy are reportedly unaccounted for, along with Admiral Veysel Kosele, the commander of the service branch. It is unknown if he was among those behind the attempt to take over the government. On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmu denied that any vessels were missing.