Aircraft Carrier Jams Bosporus Strait Traffic : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

From Times Wire Reports

Tugboats hauled a half-built aircraft carrier through Istanbul's narrow Bosporus strait, forcing Turkey to temporarily shut down one of the world's busiest and most dangerous waterways. Normal traffic through the Bosporus--the sole passageway from the Black Sea toward the Mediterranean--resumed by midafternoon after the flattop completed its six-hour passage. The 1,020-foot Varyag is bound for the South China Sea. A company in Macao, China, plans to convert the ship into a floating leisure center.

ALSO Giant vessel shuts the Bosphorus

Turkey has temporarily closed the Bosphorus Straits - which is one of the world's busiest waterways - to allow the passage of a huge vessel. Tugboats hauled the giant aircraft carrier Varyag through the narrow and treacherous straits, as crowds of sightseers lined the shores.

The Bosphorus narrows to around 700 metres at one point. And in six different places you need to change course by about 30 to 40 degrees. There is a real threat, it's a risky passage

The 300-metre Varyag waited for 16 months to pass through the narrow straits on its way from Ukraine to China, which wants to convert it into a floating casino. The Turkish authorities had refused to let the 55,000 tonne vessel through on safety grounds, and agreed only after the lengthy negotiations with China.

Floating danger The Bosphorus has a reputation of being one of the world's most dangerous waterways. There have been some 200 accidents over the last decade in the 34km straits, which links the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. Turkey feared the vessel might damage Istanbul The Turkish authorities argued that the Varyag would have considerable difficulties to navigate the straits' tight curves. They said, that together with its tugs, the vessel would be too long to safely pass the Bosphorus. "The Bosphorus narrows to around 700 metres at one point. And in six different places you need to change course by about 30 to 40 degrees," said Aslan Dede from Istanbul state-run Shipping Rescue office. "There is a real threat, it's a risky passage," he added.

Turkey also insisted that the Varyag would pose too great danger to bridges, palaces and homes in Istanbul. The Bosphorus bisects Turkey's largest city, which is a home to more than 10m people. The Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits are governed by Turkey under the 1936 Montreux treaty, which guarantees all commercial ships the right of free passage.

The deal The Varyag received the go-ahead in August after China and Turkey finally made a deal. China said it would minimise the potential security risks and compensate Turkey for any possible damage. The deal also included a tourism agreement and trade concessions by Beijing. But the decision has angered Turkish environmentalists. They say that the Varyag's passage will set a precedent for other vessels that are oversized or carrying dangerous cargoes.

"Shooting casino"? China paid Ukraine $20m for the half-built aircraft carrier. Beijing says it wants to convert the Varyag into a pleasure palace of casinos, restaurants and hotels.

But some experts have expressed doubts about China's intentions. They say China wants the technology to build its own aircraft carrier to strenghten its Navy in the Pacific. However, military experts say the rusty Varyag would offer relatively little to China for any projects of its own.


Greeks rescue crew of stricken carrier MONDAY NOVEMBER 05 2001 FROM JOHN CARR IN ATHENS AN ENGINELESS former Soviet aircraft carrier was towed to calm waters off the Greek coast after pitching out of control in the Aegean Sea. The seven-man crew was flown to safety 25 hours after the vessel’s tow cables snapped in storm force 10 winds.

The 55,000-ton Varyag, recently sold by the Ukrainian Navy to China to be converted into a floating casino, was on the first leg of a voyage under tow when high seas cut the cables of its three tugboats off the island of Skyros late on Saturday night. The crew fought 20ft waves through the night in an attempt to re-attach the 1,000ft hulk, which drifted nearly 50 miles south before the crew called the Greek coastguard. In gales and rain, a helicopter winched the crew — three Russians, three Ukrainians and a Filipino — off the Varyag while a Greek frigate co-ordinated an ultimately successful effort to recover one of the three cables and tow the ex-carrier to an anchorage on the Euboea coast. Flight Lieutenant Ioannis Karageorgis, the helicopter pilot, said: “I had to fight strong winds all the way and hover while the crew were being brought up.”

The incident was the latest of a string of difficulties for the Varyag. Turkey refused to let it pass through the Bosphorus for fear that it could veer out of control and cause an accident, and only gave its consent after months of haggling.,,3-2001383124,00.html

-- Rich Marsh (, November 05, 2001

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