Construction of huge Kanal Istanbul is set to begin in the very near future, Turkey's Transport and Infrastructure Minister, Adil Karaismailoğlu, announced Tuesday.
"The Kanal Istanbul will serve as an international waterway that will complement Turkey's logistics power and infrastructure by performing an important function in global maritime trade," Karaismailoğlu was quoted by Sabah newspaper as saying.
Earlier on Saturday, Environment and Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum said development plans for the canal had been approved. "We have approved the Kanal Istanbul Project development plans and put them out for public consultation. We will rapidly take steps to enrich our country and sacred city with Kanal Istanbul," Kurum wrote on Twitter.
The canal will connect the Black Sea north of Istanbul to the Marmara Sea to the south, designed as an alternative global shipping lane, and estimated to cost around $9.2 billion.
Championed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the massive infrastructure-development project was announced in 2011.
The government says it will ease shipping traffic on the Bosporus Strait, one of the world's busiest maritime passages, and prevent accidents similar to that of last week on Egypt's Suez Canal, where a giant container ship became lodged and blocked the channel for almost a week.
The blockage threw global supply chains into disarray, threatening costly delays for firms already wrestling with COVID-19 restrictions, and nearly doubled rates for oil-product tankers.
Shipping convoys through the canal resumed as of Monday evening after tugs pulled the 400-meter-long Ever Given container carrier free from the spot where it became wedged amid high winds on March 23. Ever Given's grounding across a southern section of the canal forced a halt to all traffic, leading to a build-up of 422 ships at either end of the canal and along its course.
The Bosporus is currently one of the most crowded waterways in the world. Thousands of oil tankers make up part of the 53,000 civilian and military vessels that transited through the Bosporus in 2017, compared to around 12,000 ships that transited the Panama Canal, and 17,000 the Suez Canal.
Karaismailoğlu said the accident prompted a major crisis in global trade, noting that the blockage caused a daily loss of around $9.6 billion. "The global crisis has created an opportunity for our country," the minister added.
The 45-kilometer (27.96-mile) canal, which will be built in Istanbul's Kuçukçekmece-Sazlıdere-Durusu corridor, will boast a capacity of 160 vessels a day.
It aims to reduce pressure on the Bosporus and play a significant role in preventing vessel accidents similar to those in recent years while minimizing risks and dangers, particularly those associated with tankers.
"The Kanal Istanbul project will save our world masterpiece city and unique Bosporus from all the risks. While the ship traffic load in the Bosporus will decrease, the risks that may arise from ships carrying hazardous materials will be minimized," said Karaismailoğlu.
The Bosphorus strait is an internationally important shipping route. Around 48,000 ships pass through its waters annually, including oil tankers and war ships.
Opposition to project
The Turkish government finalized the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for Kanal Istanbul, declaring it did not foresee any issues with the project. The ministry of environment and urbanization opened the project to public consultation. More than 70,000 people signed a petition against it.
(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).