Maximum “In Transit” time in Bosphorus and Dardanelles increased to seven days

The Turkish authorities have introduced a rule stating that the maximum stopover period has been increased from 48 hours to 168 hours (seven days), reports Swedish Club. Vessels will now have a week while passing the Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits before their “in transit” status is broken, with vessels will now being able to remain within the designated anchorage areas for crew change, bunkering, provisions, repairs and other necessary operations for seven days, subject to the permission of the authorities. The rule came into force on July 28th.

A communique from the Turkish Ministry of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communication changed the old rule that vessels exceeding the 48-hours stopover threshold were obliged to drop anchor, obtain a free pratique (the licence given to a ship to enter port on assurance from the captain to convince the authorities that she is free from contagious disease) and were subject to the free pratique tariff rather than the much cheaper transit tariff.

Turkish law firm Ersoy Bilgehan said that the amendment of the rule would have different consequences for different interests.

For owners, charterers, suppliers and service providers the extension was expected to be welcomed, as it would address many problems caused by the former regulation. “Vessels will have more time to complete important operations such as maintenance, repair and change of crew. In this regard, the regulation will also benefit ship agents, bunker suppliers and companies providing all kinds of maritime services and necessities”, said Ersoy Bilgehan.

For claimants, the law firm observed that there was an ongoing debate regarding the arrest of vessels passing the Turkish Straits during the stopover period. While some authorities say that vessels cannot be arrested during transit on account of the Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits (1936), others argue that an arrest should be possible regardless of transit status. “Conflicting judgments of the Court of Appeal had not rendered much assistance to the resolution of the issue. Now that the stopover period is extended significantly, the argument is bound to heat up”, Ersoy Bilgehan said.

The new rule was expected to reduce the fees ship owners face and to remove many problems that charterers, agents, suppliers and service providers had been facing due to time limitations. However, the increased “transit time” might force a quicker settlement of the overdue legal issue, whether a vessel in “transit status” can be arrested, “even though claimants seeking to arrest ships in the Straits may become frustrated along the way”, the lawyers said.

“The communique will no doubt benefit both local and foreign players in the industry and lead to expansion of the market by an expected increase in the number of vessels in Turkish waters at any given time”, Ersoy Bilgehan concluded.