Automated system for Bosporus

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – A new automated navigation system to regulate traffic through Turkey’s narrow Bosporus strait will become operational by the end of the year, the head of the coastal safety organization said yesterday. The Bosporus strait is the only outlet to the world’s oceans for tankers carrying some 2.5 million barrels per day of crude oil and other products, as well as large cargo vessels from Russia and other Black Sea states. Maritime officials hope the new $45 million automated vessel traffic system (VTS) will increase safety in the narrow, winding strait that cuts through Istanbul, a city of more than 10 million people. «The system will be launched in December, we won’t leave it until 2004. We are waiting for technical preparations to be completed. It will be operational by December 30 at the latest,» Baris Tozar, chief of coastal safety, told Reuters. Congestion in the Turkish straits has snarled up northbound daylight-restricted tanker traffic over the last few weeks, although the bottleneck is currently at the Dardanelles, meaning delays in the Bosporus are minimal. Shipping sources said 39 restricted vessels were queuing yesterday for permission to enter the Dardanelles from the Mediterranean, giving them a wait of more than two weeks to complete their passage into the Black Sea. «We can’t say anything about whether the system will slow down or speed up (traffic). It is aimed at increasing security for the ships passing through,» Tozar said. Turkey last year introduced tougher shipping restrictions, including daylight passage for tankers more than 200 meters (656 feet) long, due to concerns over safety and pollution. Russia has responded angrily to the new rules, saying they are hampering crude oil exports and raising shipping costs. About 50,000 ships currently pass through the Bosporus every year, of which 8,000 carry oil and other potentially hazardous cargo, Turkish officials have said.