Turkey ends insurance dispute which sparked Bosphorus logjam

Oil tankers were backed up last week as Ankara demanded insurance documents amid Russian crude price cap

An oil tanker in the Bosphorus, on its way to the Black Sea — but not all ships were moving freely on the strait last week. Reuters
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Turkey on Tuesday said it had reached a deal to end a tanker logjam which built up on its Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits and left millions of barrels of oil stuck out of two of the busiest maritime trade routes.

"The talks we have been holding with our counterparts have concluded with the acceptance of our new regulations that will protect the Turkish straits and that maritime trade continues as ordinary," the national maritime authority said.

Turkey had pushed back on pressure to ease insurance requirements, introduced on December 1, which required all ships to show proof of insurance valid for the duration of the journey through the straits and when calling at Turkish ports. It came only days before a Western-imposed $60 price cap on Russian oil, which also barred insurers from covering tankers transporting oil priced above the agreed cap.

Insurers were not prepared to meet Turkish requirements, which stipulated they would have to cover ships found to be in breach of the sanctions.

Norwegian insurer Gard also confirmed an agreement had been reached.

The Maltese-flagged Rojen, carrying Ukrainian grain, sails in the Bosphorus. Reuters

The EU had said the logjam was not related to the oil cap and pressured Turkey to allow passage for the almost 30 vessels waiting to pass the straits last week.

Analysts had warned the queue could spark a serious geopolitical crisis, pitting Turkey against the EU and Kazakhstan as it refrained from appearing too tough on its ally Russia.

Many of the tankers waiting to enter the straits were Kazakh and not carrying Russian crude.

A key transport route connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, the Bosphorus is also vital to the UN-brokered grain deal, which assuaged fears of a global food shortage after its adoption in July.

The accord allows ships carrying Ukrainian grain to depart from Black Sea ports previously blockaded by Russia. In September, a ship carrying Ukrainian grain through the strait ran aground, halting traffic.

Updated: December 13, 2022, 1:27 PM