Turkey to build waterway to rival Suez and Panama canals


A submarine sails through the Bosphorus strait in Istanbul during a heavy fogy day on Nov. 6 2010.


Bulent Kilic

Turkey has announced a plan to build a huge new waterway to rival the Suez and Panama canals, linking the Black and Mediterranean Seas, to divert shipping traffic from the Bosphorus strait.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the project Wednesday less than two months before national elections, VOA reports.

"Today we are rolling up our sleeves for one of the biggest projects of the century, which will outshine the Panama and Suez canals," Erdogan said at a party conference, CNN reported.

Erdogan said the new waterway would be around 28 miles long, 82 feet deep and 165 yards wide. The Panama Canal is roughly 48 miles long, while the Suez Canal in Egypt is more than 118 miles long.

The new canal would be built on the European side of the Bosphorus, which connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, which in turn flows into the Mediterranean, and completed by 2023.

Erdogan conceded that critics had referred to his plan as a "crazy project," but said the new waterway would make the tanker-congested Bosphorus, which has been plagued by shipping accidents and oil spills, safer.

More than a 100 ships a day travel up and down the Bosphorus, according to CNN, many carrying crude oil and liquefied petroleum gas. The fast currents and narrow bends in the historic channel have led to several accidents. In 1979, a Romanian oil tanker exploded after colliding with another vessel, killing dozens of people and leaking tons of oil into the sea.

"One of the most important reasons for this project will be to reduce Bosphorus traffic and minimize threats," Erdogan said, in comments published on the prime minister's official website.

The Bosphorus would then be usable for boating and water sports, he added.

"With this project, there will be two seas running through Istanbul," he reportedly said.