Marine Traffic Stopped on Dardanelles as Fire Threatens Çanakkale

Turkish wildfire
Wildfire approaching the city of Canakkale and the shore of the Dardanelles (KEGM)

Published Aug 22, 2023 5:53 PM by The Maritime Executive

Shipping traffic was briefly suspended Turkish officials announced for the Dardanelles, one of the critical shipping lanes providing access to Istanbul. The sea lane which links the Aegean to the Sea of Marmara is at places just three-quarters of a mile wide and critical for all traffic heading between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.

Turkey’s Directorate General of Coastal Safety (KEGM) released a brief statement announcing the closing of the waterway as a wildfire raced through the region around the city of Canakkale on the eastern shore of the strait at its narrowest point. They said that it was for the safety of shipping noting that places and helicopters were being used to fight the fire drawing sea water and dropping it in the region. In addition, KGEGM was positioning fireboats in the area if the flames approached the shoreline.



Turkey’s Forestry Ministry reported that at least nine towns were being evacuated in the Canakkale province as they confronted a fire line of nine miles in length. Included in the evacuation was a military zone with one of Turkey’s radar bases. Both a university campus and state hospital were in danger.

Turkey was reporting that this fire began at around 11:30 local time and was one of 29 reported today. They said they had been able to extinguish 26 of the fires before they got out of control. Both Turkey and Greece have been fighting an outbreak of wildfires in the region as they experienced record high temperatures. Last week, parts of Turkey reached a new record high for the country of 50 degrees Celsius (approximately 122 F) as much as 33 degrees F above the old record. Greek firefighters reported today that they recovered 18 bodies from an area in the northeastern portion of the country believed to be migrants that had become trapped in the wildfires which have burnt for days in the region.

Reuters cited local reports that as many as 34 ships were being held at the approaches to the Dardanelles. They said that 15 were heading north and 19 southbound. 

This evening, KEGM said it expected the Dardanelles to reopen to shipping traffic at 21:30, about three hours after all traffic was suspended. The reports said that the largest vessels however would wait till daylight before beginning their passage through the narrow strait.