Turkey resumes hydrocarbon drilling in Eastern Mediterranean

Turkey resumed its hydrocarbon drilling operations in the eastern Mediterranean on Tuesday August 9th after a two-year pause. Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan promised this time round that the new drill ship would operate outside waters that are also claimed by Cyprus.

The Abdulhamid Han (IMO 9705093), Turkey’s fourth drill ship, will operate 55km off the Gazipasa region in the southern coastal province of Antalya, Erdogan said.

“The survey and drilling work we are conducting in the Mediterranean are within our sovereign territory. We do not need to receive permission or consent from anyone for this”, he said, speaking at a ceremony to launch the ship in Turkey’s coastal Mersin province.

Tensions between Turkey and Greece have been rising again, with Erdogan, who has achieved a more positive international profile as a result of Turkey’s position as a diplomatic middleman between Russia and Ukraine, accusing Athens of arming islands in the Aegean Sea that are officially demilitarized. Greece has rejected the accusation.

Greek government spokesperson Giannis Oikonomou said in response that “we need to be vigilant … We’ve always been doing what we have to do to have stability in our region and to fully defend international law and our own sovereign rights”.

The newly launched Abdulhamid Han is the largest and the most technologically advanced deep sea drilling ship in its survey and exploration fleet. It can drill down more than 12,000 metres.

Turkey has not sent a drill ship to the eastern Mediterranean since it withdrew the Yavuz (IMO 9503768) from contested waters in September 2020.

The Yavuz, Fatih (IMO 9503770) and Kanuni (IMO 9541203) drill ships have been operating in the Black Sea, where Turkey discovered a natural gas reserve with a volume of 540bn m/3.

2022-built, Turkey-flagged, 66,429 gt Abdulhamid Han is owned and managed by Turkiye Petrolleri of Ankara, Turkey. As of August 10th the vessel was in the Eastern Mediterranean, some 40 miles south west of Gazipasa on the southern Turkish coast.