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Wrecked ships' toxic waste threatens Istanbul's environment

Nearly two dozen ships that have sunk in or near Istanbul’s Bosphorus Strait could pose a danger to the environment due to their potentially toxic cargo, Turkey’s Coastal Safety has said.

Wrecked ships' toxic waste threatens Istanbul's environment
14 September 2010 - 20:28

Nearly two dozen ships that have sunk in or near Istanbul’s Bosphorus Strait could pose a danger to the environment due to their potentially toxic cargo, Turkey’s Coastal Safety has said.

In only eight ship accidents in the Bosphorus and the Marmara Sea between 1979 and 2003, nearly 175,000 tons of petroleum was dispersed into the water.In only eight ship accidents in the Bosphorus and the Marmara Sea between 1979 and 2003, nearly 175,000 tons of petroleum was dispersed into the water.

The sunken ships were not carrying oil but their loads, including iron, cement, wood and waste, as well as their own fuel, could pose a threat over time, daily Milliyet reported Coast Guard General Director Coastal Safety as saying Sunday.

According to the Coastal Safety, 22 of 24 shipwrecks located in or near the Istanbul strait could pose a significant problem in the future to a city already at risk of a major environmental disaster due to the heavy maritime traffic through its waters.

A map prepared by the Coastal Safety under the auspices of the Transport Ministry shows that the 22 problematic shipwrecks include 10 ships at the Black Sea entrance of the Bosphorus, seven ships in the strait and five at the Marmara Sea end.

“For us, it is important whether the shipwrecks are posing a danger to navigation. For now, there is no threat to navigation,” Orakçı said.

Professor Halil İbrahim Sur from Istanbul University’s Naval Sciences and Management Institute said the deterioration of the metals on the ships could eventually result in an oil leak.

“[Meanwhile] these metals may cause pollution on their own because the chemicals in these metals could cause” harmful substances to seep out, Sur said.

Approximately 175,000 tons of petroleum was dispersed into the water in just eight ship accidents in the Bosphorus and the Marmara Sea between 1979 and 2003.

Environment and Forest Ministry Undersecretary Professor Hasan Zuhuri said there were 67 accidents in 2009 in the city’s waters, where 145 million tons of dangerous loads pass every year.

A total of 51,000 ships passed through the Bosphorus while 50,000 ships passed through the Dardanelles Strait in 2009. One-fifth of this sea traffic consisted of ships carrying dangerous cargo or petroleum.

Hilal Burcu Çalışır, a chief engineer at the Coastal Safety, said 978 inoperable ships had passed through the straits in the last five years. Sea traffic through Turkey’s straits is four times heavier than in the Panama Canal and five times heavier than in the Suez Canal, the engineer added.

On average, 55,000 ships pass through the Turkish straits every year, Çalışır said.

175,000 tons of oil leaked into the sea

- Independenta (1979): Some 43 people died and approximately 95,000 tons of petroleum spilled into the water when this ship wrecked.

- Unirea (1982): The vessel sank after a blast and 66,400 tons of petroleum leaked into the sea.

- Nassia and Shipbroker (1994): The two ships crashed into each other in the Bosphorus near Rumeli Hisarı. Twenty-seven people died and 10,000 tons of petroleum was spilled.

- TPAO (1997): Some 1,500 tons of petroleum spilled into the sea.

- Volganeft 248 (1999): Sank off the shores of Istanbul’s Florya neighborhood, sending 1,500 tons of petroleum into the sea.

- Semele and Şipka (1999): Crashed into each other near Istanbul’s Yenikapı area, sending 10,000 tons of fuel oil into the sea.

- M. V. Gotia (2002): Hit the Emirgan Port in Istanbul, causing a spill of 25 tons of marine oil.

- Svyatov Panteleymon (2003): Ran ashore at Anadolu Feneri at the Black Sea mouth of the Bosphorus, spilling 230 tons of fuel oil into the sea.

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