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Turkey Says Oil Companies Back Steps to Cut Bosporus Traffic

Turkey said it has broad support from 20 oil companies for steps that would make use of the Bosporus straits for oil traffic more expensive than pipelines.

Turkey is proposing higher insurance fees, limits on tanker size and improved safety standards until alternative routes are ready in three or four years. There were “no objections” from participants including Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., OAO Rosneft and BP Plc at a meeting today in Istanbul, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said.

Turkey is using the environment damage caused by BP’s Gulf of Mexico spill to press its case that oil traffic through the straits is unsafe and potentially dangerous. The straits. which divide Europe and Asia, transport 1.85 million barrels a day, equivalent to 2 percent of global oil demand, to western markets, according to Salih Orakci, head of Turkey’s Directorate General of Coastal Safety.

Current traffic levels are “unsustainable,” Turkish Environment Minister Veysel Eroglu said at a press conference with Yildiz after the meeting. He said 115,000 tons of oil has been spilled into the straits over the past 15 years and 80 percent of tankers using the waterway are old.

Passage through the Bosporus is governed by the Montreaux Convention drawn up in 1936, long before the era of the tankers. It allows free transit to all commercial vessels of all nations.

Pipeline Routes

Turkey wants more traffic to flow through alternative pipelines, such as the $2.5 billion Samsun-Ceyhan line that’s proposed to run from Samsun on the Black Sea to Ceyhan on the Mediterranean. Another option is the proposed 285-kilometer (177-mile) pipeline from Bulgaria’s Black Sea port of Burgas to Greece’s Aegean port of Alexandroupolis.

Oil volumes through the straits would be cut by as much as 50 million tons a year, or almost half the current traffic, after the proposed Samsun-Ceyhan has been built, Yildiz said.

Traffic through the Bosporus would be 50 percent higher were it not for BP’s Baku-Tiflis-Ceyhan pipeline, which bypasses Istanbul, Yildiz said.

Turkey has the support of the Group of 20 most industrialized countries for its proposals, Yildiz said. It may take three or four years for the full impact of the measures to be seen, he said.

There’ll be further meetings with oil companies in the future to discuss the proposals, Yildiz said. A date for the next meeting hasn’t been set yet.

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