Energy: What will happen if Turkey closes the Straits?

Energy: What will happen if Turkey closes the Straits?

One time the accident, another the fog… since the beginning of the year, at least twice the Bosphorus Straits crossing had to be interrupted.

More specifically, on April 27, the Turkish authorities had to order the closure of the Straits due to dense fog and then to allow only the passage of the ships going north, that is from the Marmara Sea to the Black Sea.

In that particular there were only 75 ships that had to cross…

Only ten days ago, on May 3, there were similar weather conditions; the overall number of vessels (following a direction both to the north and to the south) waiting to cross were 103… It took authorities four days to restore the normal operation of the crossing… But traffic is usually much higher.

In the meantime, the possibility of an accident complicates things even more, as it happened in early April when a ship was drifted to the shore, hit the land on the Asian coast of Istanbul, and due to the impact, a restaurant was destroyed.

The passage of tankers from the Bosphorus Straits and the Dardanelles due to these events becomes dodgy, bringing to surface an older demand by environmental organisations – and not them only – for the revision of the Montreux Convention and the need to look for alternative routes.

When the above mentioned incident occured, the President of the Bosporus Energy Club, Mehmet Öğütçü, spoke to Anadolu news agency, expressing the need to find a satisfactory solution. He had noted, “since the signing of the Montreux Convention of 1936, the volume and number of ships crossing has increased spectacularly, something that raises serious security issues”. He had added that “the matter is urgent now”.

For example, the number of ships in transit in 1934 was 4,500, while in 1998 it was 49,304 and in 2017, 87,593, of which 13,732 were LNG and LPG carriers, according to figures in the Turkish press.

The truth is that the LNG industry has radically changed the Energy Charter.

At the same time, oil and petroleum products have also increased sharply.

Central Asian oil producers, such as Kazakhstan, have the opportunity to export oil through this route and the Straits; oil they are “offered” by the significant deposits they have underground.

About 3 million barrels of crude and 20 million tonnes of petroleum products cross the Bosporus every year. The figure is expected to increase even more in the coming years as it is estimated that oil production in the Caspian and Central Asian countries will be boosted, especially in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. Experts foresee that, as long as this trend is stabilised will be the most advantageous solution, so there will be an increase in LNG loads.

Could the pipelines be the solution?

The promotion of projects such as the so-called “Southern Corridor”, made up of the TANAP (Trans-Anatolian pipeline) and the TAP (Trans Adriatic pipeline), to export Azeri gas to Europe or the Turkish Stream gas pipeline, which is being promoted by Russia as well as the already existing Blue Stream, which also transports Russian gas to Turkey, are being proposed as a solution to the problem.

The more insightful ones do not forget the abandoned construction plan of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline… ….. / IBNA