Turkey determined to push forward with Kanal Istanbul project

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government is determined to move forward with a $30 billion shipping canal designed to bypass the Bosporus waterway in Istanbul, the country’s Transportation Minister Cahit Turhan said on Monday.

Companies from Benelux countries have shown interest in the giant Kanal Istanbul project, a 45-kilometre canal on the European side of the city linking the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea, Turhan told Turkish newspaper Hürriyet Daily News. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, ahead of the 2011 general elections, vowed to build the mega canal, however, construction has not begin on the project, which has drawn heavy criticism due to its environmental and economic costs. 

“Our talks for financing are underway. The Chinese are interested, but the most interest in the project is shown by Benelux countries. They have business experience and a technology basis in this field,” Turhan said.

The planning stage of Kanal Istanbul is about to be completed before the government moves forward, the minister said. 

The ambitious project will accommodate 160 vessel transits per day and will reduce marine traffic through the Bosporus, one of the busiest waterways in the world, according to the Turkish government. 

“Kanal Istanbul is a transportation project and has to be realised. It is necessary,” Turhan said.

“Istanbul and Çanakkale can hardly handle the shipping traffic. The annual capacity of the Istanbul Strait is 25,000 tankers. But this figure goes up to 40,000. It creates major safety concerns as the Istanbul strait is one of the most dangerous seaways for navigation,” he added.

Stressing that conditions for finding financing are much better at this time than in previous years, Turhan said Turkey should take advantage of the troubles the European financing market is facing in finding projects to finance.

Turhan said the project needed around $20 billion financing in total, with $5 billion required for the first phase.

“We will use this financing for the relocation of the existing infrastructure, including motorways, energy and transportation systems, etc., which would be affected by the construction. The first tender will be done for this,” he said.