Bosphorus Strait Reopened

Turkish maritime authorities have reopened Istanbul’s Bosphorus Strait to transiting tankers after shutting it earlier on Saturday July 16th for several hours following an attempted coup.

The Bosphorus is one of world’s most important bottlenecks for the transit of oil with more than 3% of global supply passing through the 17-mile waterway which connects the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. The strait also moves grain from Russia and Kazakhstan. Some 48,000 vessels transit the straits each year.

Shipping agent GAC said traffic had reopened after being shut for several hours for security reasons. A spokesman for Russia’s pipeline monopoly Transneft said the main Black Sea port of Novorossiisk was operating normally and had enough tankers near the port to continue loading operations uninterrupted until July 25 regardless of what happens in the Bosphorus.

Reuters ship tracking data showed that around 10 oil tankers were anchored off the coast of Istanbul on the southern side of the strait, still waiting for instructions to sail through the narrow passage.

Turkey is also shipping significant volumes of oil from the Caspian Sea region and countries such as Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan via its territory directly to its export terminals on the Mediterranean. This bypasses the Bosphorus. A BP-led group operating oil and gas pipelines running from Azerbaijan to Turkey via Georgia said there had been no disruptions to shipments.

A source at Azeri state energy company SOCAR said that oil shipping to the Ceyhan terminal had not been uninterrupted.

Iranian Mehr news agency said Iran had temporarily stopped exports of petrochemical products as the border between the two countries had been closed.

Oil shipments through the Turkish Straits have decreased over the past decade as Russia shifted flows towards the Baltic ports, which are still operating below capacity.

Commercial shipping has the right of free passage through the straits in peacetime, although Turkey claims the right to impose regulations for safety and environmental purposes.