Skip to main content

Cargo ship collides into Istanbul coastline, closing the Bosphorus Strait

Istanbul's governor said the Liberian-flagged Songa Iridium cargo ship faced engine failure when it ran aground
Erdogan used the incident to renew calls for the construction of a new canal in Istanbul (Screengrab)

A Liberian-flagged cargo ship ran off course and collided into Istanbul's coast on Friday, forcing Turkish authorities to close the Bosphorus waterway, local media reported. 

The Istanbul governor's office said that there were no injuries or casualties, stating that the ship faced engine failure before it ran aground. 

Footage posted online appeared to show that the ship was just metres away from a restaurant when it hit the coast. 

Witnesses told the Reuters news agency that no damage was inflicted to the concrete walkway running along the shoreline.  

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


Following the incident, traffic was closed on the Bosphorus with boats being dispatched to tow the cargo ship. 

The Bosphorus is one of the world's most important choke points for maritime oil transports, with more than three percent of global supply - mainly from Russia and the Caspian Sea - passing through the 27-kilometre waterway.

Data from Refinitiv Eikon shipping said the Liberian-flagged Songa Iridium had come from Ukraine's Odesa and was headed to Istanbul's port of Ambarli. 

Erdogan used Friday's incident to renew calls for a new canal to be built that would ease traffic on the Bosphorus shipping route. 

He first mentioned the idea in 2011, dubbing it his "crazy project". But a currency crisis in 2018 prompted Turkey to freeze investments in large projects.

Kanal Istanbul returned to the president's agenda in November and sparked a confrontation with Istanbul's new mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu of the main opposition party.

The 400 metre-wide canal planned to the west of Istanbul would connect the Black Sea in the north to the Sea of Marmara, which eventually runs into the Mediterranean.

Environmental activists and hundreds of others have signed a petition opposing the canal, fearing it could negatively impact the area's environment. 

Imamoglu warned that the project will cost millions and wreak environmental havoc on the city. 

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.