Turkey, IOCs plan meeting about Bosporus tanker traffic

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, June 24 -- The Turkish government will meet with international oil companies on July 1 to discuss ways of bypassing the busy Bosporus and Dardenelles straits, which are used by shippers to transport crude oil from the Black Sea region to international markets.

“Rather than taking unilateral measures, Turkey plans on establishing voluntary principles through public and private sector cooperation,” said one Turkish official, referring to the government’s desire to control the traffic through the straits.

Turkey, fearing an environmental catastrophe, wants to reduce the number of ships and the amount of hazardous cargo that passes through the straits. Ankara puts the current traffic at 140 million tonnes of oil and products, but is concerned by projected increases.

The US Energy Information Administration, which estimates that 2.4 million b/d of mostly oil passed through the straits in 2006 aboard 5,500 tankers, said the traffic is expected to increase “as Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan augment crude production and exports in the future.”

Last month, the Turkish government, taking up an earlier idea proposed by Russia, said it was considering legislation aimed at applying heavy sanctions on oil companies in the event of tanker accidents in the congested Bosporus Strait.

Ankara is thought to be using the proposed legislation as part of an effort to divert tanker traffic away from the Bosporus and promote use of oil pipelines instead. Ankara was reported to be discussing the legislation with Chevron Corp., ExxonMobil Corp., BP PLC, Total SA, and Eni SPA (OGJ Online, May 26, 2010).

Meanwhile, analyst BMI reports that Turkey, which recently has stepped up security at two of its main oil pipelines, faces long-term terrorist threats to its pipeline system, mainly attacks by rebels from the country's outlawed Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan (PKK).

Although BMI does not believe that the current stepped up security signals a major risk to oil transit in the region at the moment, it does believe “the threat posed by the PKK and other terrorist groups will become more significant as new oil and gas pipeline projects in Turkey such as Nabucco come onstream.”

In a word, the threat from terrorist attacks will increase even as the Turkish government seeks to avoid an ecological disaster by diverting oil shipments from its congested straits to its overland pipeline system.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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