Istanbul Canal Project expected to provide annual $1B revenue

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Canal Istanbul, a mega-project to build an artificial sea-level waterway through Istanbul will provide safe passage to 185 ships daily, compared to 118-125 ships through currently-used Bosporus Strait, Turkey’s transport minister said Monday.

The project will provide an estimated $1 billion per year with fees to be collected from ships passing through Kanal Istanbul,” Cahit Turhan told Anadolu Agency.

Besides the safety threats posed by passages through the strait, the Bosporus has become more of a financial burden as ships must wait long hours before passing through, as highlighted earlier by Environment and Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum.

“Economic losses arising from the waiting periods tankers faced reach millions of dollars. A daily rental loss of tankers over 200 meters in length reaches $120,000 on average. Under favorable conditions, a ship of a length of over 200 meters passes through the Bosporus in about an hour and a half,” the minister previously said.

Turhan further stressed that Turkey’s goal is to create a new waterway with a capacity to be thrice that of the Bosporus.

The number of the ships that made the passing annually through the Bosporus reached 50,000 in 2019 and is estimated to reach 65,000 in 2030, and 100,000 in 2050. An additional 2,500 vessels, including city lines and fishing boats, also operate in the strait.

These figures do not include urban traffic, which, as Turhan puts it, is increasing each passing day.

“There is a 53% increase in the amount of cargo carried by ships passing through the Bosporus,” he stressed, adding that it was the amount of cargo and dangerous goods shipped through the narrow strait that was most alarming.

The new canal is meant to provide relief to shipping traffic, particularly from oil tankers passing through the Bosporus. By decreasing the total transit costs which had significantly increased due to waiting periods on the Bosporus, Kanal Istanbul is expected to be a preferred route.

Turhan stressed that although the number of ships that use the Bosporus for transit passes has seen a 25% decrease in the last 15 years, loads of those ships have increased by 53%. The content of the loads also poses a danger as the ships carry dangerous supplies, including natural gas, chemical substances, explosive substances or Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).

Dangerous cargo – LNG, chemicals, oil and explosives – made up 25% of shipments through the strait 10 years ago, with current levels exceeding 35%, he added.

The planned 45-kilometer (nearly 28-mile) canal – which will connect the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara and the Mediterranean and to is built in Istanbul’s Küçükçekmece-Sazlıdere-Durusu corridor on the European side – aims to boost the city’s marine through-traffic capacity.

Ten bridges are also planned to be built as part of the canal while the project currently involves six bridges, one of them being a railway. In addition, an area of nearly 3 million square meters will be rented as commercial areas and this is also expected to create $3 billion of yearly income.

Turhan, drawing attention to the importance of Istanbul in terms of tourism, expressed that the volume of sea traffic for domestic and foreign tourists coming to the city is also very high.

He highlighted that such a strait with high volumes of vessel traffic and unfavorable geographical conditions threatens the lives of those living along the coasts of the Bosporus. Turhan noted that the primary concern of this project is the protection of those settlement areas as well as the historical sites along the coasts of Istanbul.

“There are 13 natural curves in the Bosporus. There will be no sharp bends in Kanal Istanbul. It will be safe due to lighting,” he said.

The project’s cost, including substructure work, is calculated to be $15 billion, with the canal’s construction cost alone being $10 billion, said Turhan.

The project could be made via a build-operate-transfer-model, he added.

Speaking on the construction process, Turhan said that there are currently several firms, all of which are prominent companies in the field, from countries including the Netherlands, Belgium and France that are eying the project’s tender.

The model of the canal was tested in a laboratory against earthquakes, and measures against groundwater were taken, Turhan further added.