Istanbul Canal’s Impacts on Maritime Affairs
You can click on the titles below to get information about the impacts of the Istanbul Canal Project on maritime.
The Bosporus is a waterway connecting the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea, with a length of 30 km (18.64 mi), an average depth of 60 meters (196.85 ft.), and a width of 700-3.500 meters (0.43- 2.17 mi). This waterway has a two-layered flow. The surface layer flows from the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea, and the bottom layer flows in the opposite direction. The fact that the water level in the Black Sea is higher than that of the Marmara Sea causes the formation of a surface current from the Black Sea to the Marmara, and the fact that the Marmara Sea is saltier than the Black Sea (and the resulting density difference) causes the formation of bottom current. The Istanbul Canal planned to be built on the Sazlıdere- Küçükçekmece route, has a length of approximately 45 km (28 mi) and 8,5 kilometers (27.88 ft.) of it is within Küçükçekmece Lake. Since the Canal depth is approximately 21 meters (68.89 ft.) (and the bottom of the Canal will be higher than the density interface in the Marmara Sea), the Istanbul Canal will only have a current that will move from the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea. Therefore, the current that will occur in the Istanbul Canal will bring the Black Sea water to the Marmara Sea, just like the surface layer flow in the Bosporus.
The project owner commissioned the company Artelia to carry out a study within the scope of the “Istanbul Canal Project EIA Report” to examine the effect of the Istanbul Canal on the hydrodynamics of the Black Sea-Bosporus-Marmara Sea system. This study is included in “Annex 17” of the “Istanbul Canal Project EIA Report”. The results of this study titled “The Istanbul Canal Project Hydrodynamic Numerical Model Final Report” were technically and scientifically assessed. According to this:
The study conducted by Artelia company (Artelia study in short) provides a significantly small flowrate (the amount of water flowing through a section per unit time) and level difference (the water level difference between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea) compared to the values in the literature for the current situation and seriously contradicts with the studies in the literature. Regarding this, inconsistencies between the model results are discussed in Section 2.3 of the article titled Bosporus and Istanbul Canal – A Hydrodynamic Analysis.
The Artelia study also contains significant inconsistencies in the results provided to reflect the situation after the construction of the Istanbul Canal. For example, the Artelia model gives inconsistent values for the surface and bottom layer average flow rates of the Bosporus and the corresponding Black Sea-Marmara average level difference after the Istanbul Canal construction. These issues are discussed in Section 3.3 and Section 3.4 of the article titled Bosporus and Istanbul Canal – A Hydrodynamic Analysis.
The article titled “Bosporus and Istanbul Canal – A Hydrodynamic Analysis” contains an assessment carried out based on the studies in the literature in order to explain the situation of the Black Sea- Bosporus-Marmara Sea system after the construction of the Istanbul Canal. The assessment reached the following conclusions:
When the Istanbul Canal becomes operational, the total flow rate of the Black Sea water flowing into the Marmara Sea, (i.e. the total of the surface layer flow of the Bosporus and the flow rate of the Istanbul Canal), will increase by approximately 12% compared to the current situation.
The operation of the Istanbul Canal will not practically change the total net water exchange flow between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea. After the construction of the Istanbul Canal, the level difference between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea will decrease. The expected decrease is approximately 3.5 cm (0.98 inches).
The salinity of the Marmara Sea is estimated to decrease by approximately 18% in the medium/long term when the Istanbul Canal becomes operational.
In summary, the studies conclude to the fact that the Istanbul Canal will lead to significant changes in the hydrodynamics of the Black Sea-Bosporus-Marmara Sea system.
This has become the case because the Istanbul Canal project, which aims to artificially combine two seas, was started without consulting marine scientists, who experts in this field, at the prefeasibility stage. This project, which creates the risk of turning the Marmara Sea into a dead sea, must be forgotten immediately. This issue cannot be solved by saying “it was a mistake, we will turn back and close it down”. There will be no more fishing in the Marmara Sea. The investments made for the treatment of the wastewater of Istanbul and planned to remedy the alarming situation of the Marmara Sea with its current loads, to some extent, will become meaningless. If the Marmara Sea becomes anoxic, it will completely change the ecology of not only the country but also the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea neighboring this sea and will be the source of a new international problem. If the warnings are ignored and the Marmara Sea dies, we will lose the entire Marmara Region and never get it back.
It is not convincing to build Istanbul Canal by justifying the will to decrease the dangers caused by the vessel traffic in the Bosporus. A graver danger than what is expected in the Bosporus will be transferred to the Istanbul Canal.
The assessment of the annexes of the EIA Report on maritime reveals that the report lacks maritime terminology. The experts who prepared the report did not include professional ship captains, practitioners, maritime pilots, and mariner scholars working at universities, who have sufficient experience and expertise in the Bosporus maritime traffic, and especially the navigation difficulties of large vessels. These facts prove that this project is not a maritime project.
The simulation experiments carried out in “fully equipped navigating bridge simulators” serve as the basis for the risk assessments. Considering the Istanbul Canal, a massive and strategically important project, those experiments are necessary and even imperative. The simulations of this project, which can only be classified as partial task simulators on an international scale, were performed by computers of a project office in France, although our universities that provide maritime education perform required simulation experiments.
These studies also reveal that navigation of the designed vessels in the Istanbul Canal would be more dangerous than in the Bosporus. These studies address various risks, various difficulties vessels will face at the Canal entrance, the potential challenge in pilotage services, and the dangerous situations that may be caused by bad weather and forceful currents in the Canal.
No prudent, responsible, and skilled ship captain would want to take the risk of passing through the Canal when there is an option of passing more safely through the Bosporus. The dangers and precautions of the Bosphorus are known and tried through years of experience, unlike the Istanbul Canal, which has many uncertainties with simulation experiments conducted in an inadequate simulator environment.
Considering the Canal depth under the 17-meter draft ships provided as one of the designed ships, the remaining water depth will be 3.75 m (12.13 ft.). When the vessel accelerates, due to collapse and trimming, the water draft will increase, and the water depth underneath will decrease further. Therefore, the designed ships will have to sail in very shallow water, which will adversely affect the safe steering. Hence, maneuverability and safe navigation of the vessels will significantly decrease. The same applies to deep-draft ships and container ships. Naturally, no ship-owner will prefer to navigate in shallow waters and pass through the Istanbul Canal. They will continue to pass through the Bosporus unless there is a specific commercial interest.
Thanks to the safety measures taken in the last 30 years, there has been no “catastrophic sea accident” with human mortality, fire, or environmental disasters in the Bosporus in the last 26 years. There are options such as taking additional safety precautions, costs of which can be obtained from dangerous vessels that will pass through, making a condition that vessels over 150 m (492,12 ft.) take a maritime pilot on board, building emergency response organizations/tugboat stations, safe large ship model (ISTANBULMAKS) and similar applications, and the establishment of the Samsun-Ceyhan oil pipeline, thus making Bosporus and the maritime traffic inexpensive and safer. Therefore, it is extremely wrong to seek the solution in the design of a project such as the Istanbul Canal, which will bring incredible financial burdens to the country’s economy and increase the danger, and it is obvious that this conflicts with common sense.
The primary purpose of building the Canal is declared as creating an alternative waterway to the Bosporus. Hence, it is a top priority to examine whether the “designed vessels”, the largest vessels to pass through this Canal, can actually pass through the Canal based on the plans and the approved EIA Report.
It is certain that a higher velocity than the current in the Bosporus, under the same conditions, is expected in the Canal. The calculations made gave the following results without considering this fact. Of course, these stated results will be negatively affected by the current velocity in the Canal.
Kanal İstanbul’un, Karadeniz-İstanbul Boğazı-Marmara Denizi sisteminin hidrodinamiğine etkisinin ne olacağını incelemek üzere “Kanal İstanbul Projesi ÇED Raporu” kapsamında, proje müellifi tarafından, Artelia firmasına bir çalışma yaptırılmıştır. Bu çalışma “Kanal İstanbul Projesi ÇED Raporu” ekinde “Ek 17” de yer almaktadır. “Kanal İstanbul Projesi Hidrodinamik Nümerik Model Final Raporu” başlıklı bu çalışmanın sonuçları, teknik ve bilimsel açıdan değerlendirilmiştir. Buna göre:
The designed vessels selected in the EIA Report are fuel vessels, container vessels, and passenger vessels. As the largest ships expected to pass through the Canal, tankers have a full length of 275 m (902.2 ft.), a width of 48.00 m (157.48 ft.), and a DWT of 145.000, containers have a full length of 340 m (1115.48 ft.), a width of 48.20 m (158.13 ft.) and a DWT of 120.000, and passenger vessels have a full length of 333 m (1092.51 ft.), a width of 37.92 m (124.40 ft.) and a DWT of 139.072. An evaluation of vessels with specified IMO registration numbers (IMO: International Maritime Organization), which 99% fit the specifications of these vessels mentioned above, was carried out. The results obtained by using the required data of these vessels are summarized and assessed below:
The sterns of the fuel tanker and passenger vessel are more submerged, trim is increased, when passing through the Canal. There is no trim in the container vessel. All three vessels naturally dive parallel to the water when passing through the Canal. As a result, the original ship draft value and ship resistance increase. And this increases the power requirement and fuel consumption while passing through the Canal. The loss of speed while the ships pass through the Canal causes an increase in ship operating costs.
The form of all three vessels is displacement type. Although the detailed resistance characteristics (model experiment results) are unknown, it is evident that the resistance percentage increase will be higher than the speed loss percentage. Propeller shafts are loaded at least 75% more due to the power increase. There will be a decrease in efficiency due to increasing propeller revolutions.
All three vessels have shallow water and sidewall, i.e. canal effect, and blockage occurs while passing through the Canal. The result of these hydrodynamic effects increases the costs of passing through the Canal. Due to the proximity of the bottom of the ship to the Canal, it is very dangerous (impossible) for the fuel tankers to pass through while passing through is at the critical limit for container vessels. There is no problem in terms of depth for the passenger vessel.
In terms of ship lengths, there is no problem in passing through for the fuel tanker. However, it is not safe for the container vessel and the passenger vessel to pass through the Canal primarily due to their lengths. The slightest deviation from the longitudinal route towards the starboard or pier may create the danger of hitting the Canal walls with a width of 360 meters (1181.1 ft.) on the water surface.
The Canal is planned to be built for security reasons, considering the potential dangers that can be caused by the large tonnage vessels passing through the Bosporus. However, the proposed Canal does not constitute an alternative due to its geometric and hydrodynamic properties.
According to the Montreux Convention, the passage of all vessels, whether they have a stopover or not, through the Turkish Straits is free. The ship-owners only need to pay a specific fee according to certain criteria to pass through Bosphorus. Therefore, there is no technical or financial positive side to the paid canal passage for the ship-owners.