Turkey may up Straits fees on oil tankers to cut traffic
Turkey may introduce new fees on tankers carrying oil and other commodities through its straits to reduce traffic on the busy and environmentally sensitive Straits. Monday, 10.Jan.2011, 03:26 (GMT+3)
Turkey may introduce new fees on tankers carrying oil and other commodities through its straits to reduce traffic on the busy and environmentally sensitive waterways, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said.
The government has said it wants to cut the amount of cargo travelling through its Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits, the only outlet to the world's oceans for Black Sea states, by 2013 or 2014. It has met international oil companies to urge them to back a planned pipeline to the Mediterranean.
Some 150 million tonnes of crude oil and petroleum products pass through the channels each year. The narrow Bosphorus bisects Istanbul, a city of 13 million people.
"We cannot put Istanbul at risk like this," Yildiz said at a news conference. "We can create a high barrier for cargo transport. Raising the fees to cross the Bosphorus will ease things for Turkey, but it will raise costs for companies."
The government could use the 1936 Montreux Convention, which authorises Turkey to regulate the straits, and force each ship that passes through to pay "gold francs" -- essentially taxes and charges for sanitary and safety precautions, he said.
Turkey now collects $150 million from oil tankers traversing its straits, which the country is obliged, under Montreux, to keep open to commercial ships during peacetime.
A pipeline planned by Turkey's Calik holding and Italian energy company Eni, which aims to carry Russian and Caspian crude from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean and bypass the straits, has strong backing from Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government.
TALKS WITH FRANCE ON NUCLEAR PLANT
Yildiz said Turkey had received proposals from French utilities GDF Suez and EDF to build a nuclear power plant on Turkey's Black Sea coast.
Turkey is also holding discussions with Japan over construction of the plant and these remain a priority, he added without elaborating.
GDF Suez Chief Executive Gerard Mestrallet met Erdogan at the end of December and they talked about Turkish gas, power nuclear and waste-water treatment projects, a spokeswoman at GDF Suez told Reuters in Paris.
A source in the French utility industry, talking on condition of anonymity, said: "There is absolutely nothing concrete with either company. We are talking about very preliminary contacts here."
GDF Suez and EDF were part of a French industry conglomerate that lost a $40 billion nuclear project in Abu Dhabi in 2009.
The loss of this landmark contract to Korea's KEPCO was a blow to France, which aims to capitalise on more than three decades of civil nuclear use at home to spearhead a worldwide atomic rebirth.
Turkey wants to launch a nuclear power industry to cut its reliance on oil and gas imports to fire its power plants. It agreed last year with Russian firms on construction of a first atomic facility on the Mediterranean coast.
Separately, Yildiz said he will travel to Iran on Saturday to try to negotiate a lower price for the natural gas it imports from the Islamic Republic, Turkey's second-biggest supplier after Russia.
Turkey will go ahead with plans to transfer to the private sector gas contracts held by Botas, the state pipeline operator, covering up to a 6 billion cubic metres (bcm), Yildiz also said. The contracts could be transferred in blocks of 1 bcm.