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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Oil Firms Urged to Avoid Bosporus

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- The head of Turkey's coastal safety organization on Friday urged oil exporters such as Russia using the crowded Bosporus and Dardanelles straits to find other routes for their crude in order to reduce congestion.

"The physical capacity of the Bosporus straits is well known ... The straits can be closed at any time, even for up to a month. The Bosporus should not be the sole option," Baris Tozar told a news conference.

"Countries should find alternative routes," he said.

Shipping traffic faced big delays early last week due to bad weather. On Monday evening, the Georgian-flagged Svayetov Panteleymon broke in two and leaked some of its 220 tons of diesel and 260 tons of fuel oil into the straits.

Tozar said Turkey's overriding priority was security.

"The Turkish straits are one of the most dangerous waterways in the world and are becoming more dangerous," he said.

The Bosporus and Dardanelles straits link Black Sea ports to the world's oceans and are key outlets for Russian oil, grains and other commodities from several ex-Soviet republics.

Turkey governs the straits under the 1936 Montreux Convention, which allows commercial ships to pass freely through the waterways in time of peace.

But last year, Turkey introduced tougher shipping restrictions due to concerns over safety and pollution, drawing an angry response from Moscow, which says the limitations are hampering crude oil exports and raising shipping costs.

Tozar said there were currently some 59 ships sunk in the straits, adding that their removal was crucial for the environment despite the high costs of doing so.