The government of Turkey has released the finalized route for a second shipping channel between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, parallel to the Bosporus Strait.
The new waterway - to be known as Kanal Istanbul - would increase capacity for shipping to and from the Black Sea. The route selected would run between Küçükçekmec in the south, near Istanbul's Ataturk Airport, to the Sazlıdere Dam and then north to Durusu.
The total length will be about 25 nm, and it will be the nation's largest ever infrastructure project. As designed, it will be able to accommodate 160 vessel transits per day - roughly equivalent to the current volume of traffic through the Bosporus.
Unlike the existing channel, which is protected by treaty, the new canal would allow Turkey to charge a service fee for transits. With the ability to raise revenues from users, Turkey will look for private partners to raise the funds necessary for construction. "We intend to complete the bidding process with a mixed model, including a build-operate-transfer model, and other public-private partnership alternatives, and to launch the project this year," said transport minister Ahmet Arslan at a press conference on Monday.
Arslan said that the final route was selected after an exhaustive review of five alternatives, incorporating environmental impacts, land expropriation, geological studies, earthquake risks and groundwater effects, among many other factors. The excavation material may be used to create artificial islands in the Sea of Marmara.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has sought to build a bypass around the Bosporus for at least six years, even before he gained the presidency. “Opening a new channel parallel to the Bosphorus, which we call ‘Kanal Istanbul,’ is my dream. God willing, we will break its ground probably at the end of this year or in early 2018,” said Erdoğan at a business forum last October. Erdogan himself once described it as one of his "crazy projects," along with a giant bridge across the Dardanelles, a tunnel under the Bosporus and a new airport for Istanbul.