Cablegate: Turkey Respondes to Russian Imo Paper On Turkish

Published: Fri 23 May 2003 01:14 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. (SBU) Summary: MFA Chief of Maritime Affairs Erciyes
told econoff May 22 that the paper Russia had submitted to
the IMO, which claims that Turkey has implemented new, costly
restrictions on passage through the Turkish Straits, was
factually incorrect. Erciyes maintained that the guidelines
issued by Turkey in October 2002 did not change the Maritime
Traffic Regulations established in 1998; rather, these
guidelines were designed to more strictly enforce the current
regulations. Erciyes said recent delays of passage in the
Straits were due primarily to increased tanker traffic, heavy
weather conditions, and the failure of vessels to provide
required documentation. Erciyes noted that the Vessel
Traffic System (VTS) should begin operating on July 1,2003.
He requested U.S. support of Turkey's efforts to ensure the
safety of life, property, and the environment in the Straits.
End summary.
2. (SBU) Econoff met with MFA Chief of Maritime Affairs
Cagatay Erciyes May 22 to discuss the paper submitted by
Russia to the IMO, which claims that Turkey has implemented
new restrictions on passage through the Turkish Straits,
which have resulted in lengthy delays and higher costs for
shippers. Erciyes said the GOT regretted that Russia had
submitted this paper, which was factually incorrect and even
absurd in some parts. He said the GOT was somewhat surprised
that Russia had taken this position, since the government had
gone to great lengths to explain its position to Russia.
3. (SBU) Erciyes told econoff that, despite what the Russians
claimed in their paper, the guidelines issued by Turkey in
October 2002 did not change the Maritime Traffic Regulations
established in 1998. Rather, due to increased traffic in the
Straits, Turkish authorities determined that the 1998
Regulations must be more strictly enforced in order to ensure
the safety of life, property, and the environment in the
Straits. Erciyes said this new guidance contained four basic
new elements:
-- The ship length criteria for temporary suspension of 2-way
traffic had been reduced from 250 meters to 200 meters.
(Erciyes said the 200 meter criteria was also in the 1998
-- Ships are now required to submit all required technical
documentation, such as those documents pertaining to
International Oil Pollution Prevention, through the ship
reporting system.
-- All administrative dues owed by ships must be paid, and
the receipts shown to the Turkish traffic control center,
before ships are allowed passage.
-- The regulation of passage priority for ships waiting for
passage will not be determined on a first-come, first-serve
basis, but rather on the basis of safety. For example,
passenger ships will go first and dangerous cargo ships last.
4. (SBU) Erciyes said the Russians claimed that delays in the
Straits have increased fourfold since Turkey implemented
these new guidelines. He allowed that delays had increased,
but not primarily due to the new guidelines. Erciyes
attributed recent delays to three factors:
-- A 75 percent increase in tanker traffic in the last five
years -- in 1997, 4,303 tankers and dangerous cargo vessels
passed through the Straits; in 2002 that number was 7,427.
-- Vessels were failing to submit required reports to traffic
control stations, which was causing congestion and delays.
-- Heavy winter weather conditions - in the first three
months of2003 traffic was suspended for 1,029 hours. 524
hours of suspended traffic were due to the passage of large
ships and tankers; 505 hours were due to heavy winter weather
5. (SBU) Erciyes stated that, although the Russians were
exaggerating the situation, delays in the Straits were a
reality. However, he said, the top priority for the Turkish
government was to ensure the safety of life, property, and
environment in the Straits. He noted that there was increased
global concern for safety and security in maritime affairs.
Turkey, for its part, had taken steps to enhance safety and
security in the Straits, in a manner which conformed to the
1998 Regulations and IMO standards. He said Turkey hoped the
U.S. and its European partners to support Turkey in its
6. (SBU) Erciyes added that the GOT expected the Vessel
Traffic System (VTS) in the Straits to be functional on a
trial basis as of July I, 2003. The VTS should also
contribute to safety of navigation in the Straits. Erciyes
gave econoff a non-paper on this subject, which he said was
only a draft in preparation for the May 28-June 26 IMO
meetings (faxed to OES, E/CBED and EUR/SE).
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