Cargo ship from Ukraine refloated after running aground in Bosphorus Strait

Traffic on major waterway suspended and tugs sent to provide assistance

The Palau-flagged bulk carrier MKK1 is towed free after running aground. Reuters
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

A vessel that had wedged itself against the banks of Istanbul's Bosphorus Strait has been freed by Turkey, clearing the vital waterway that connects the Black Sea with global markets.

The cargo ship travelling from Ukraine to Turkey ran aground on Monday before tugboats later released the stranded carrier, CNN Turk television reported.

The bulk carrier MKK-1, which was carrying 13,000 tonnes of peas, had run aground after its steering failed, Bloomberg reported.

Traffic in the strait resumed late on Monday, Reuters reported.

Such incidents in the Bosphorus are typically resolved within hours. Yet the incident is a reminder of Turkey’s long-standing concern about maritime mishaps in waters that are important for tourism — and serve as the vista for some of the country’s prime real estate.

Ankara recently prevented oil tankers sailing from Russia from passing the strait because of insurance concerns related to sanctions. It relented only once it received proof the vessels were covered against risks including spills and collisions.

No spill from the vessel on Monday was reported.

The bulk carrier MKK-1 was carrying 13,000 tonnes of peas. Reuters

The Istanbul governor's office said the vessel ran aground close to shore in the Beykoz district at around 7.30am local time due to a rudder failure, the Anadolu news agency reported earlier.

Turkey’s General Directorate of Coastal Safety said rescue vessels were immediately sent to assist the vessel, adding that the movement of vessels in the strait was suspended while the operation was launched.

The Joint Co-ordination Centre in Istanbul, which runs UN-brokered Black Sea grain deal operations, said the MKK1 was travelling from Pivdennyi to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Mersin.

The Palau-flagged general cargo ship was grounded at Acarburnu at the northern end of the strait early on Monday as it headed southbound, Tribeca said.

In September, shipping was halted in the strait after a vessel carrying 3,000 tonnes of corn from Ukraine ran aground.

Millions of barrels of oil pass through the 19km-wide strait each day. Almost 700 million barrels of crude have flowed through the vital passageway in the past year.

Monday's incident comes a month after Turkey reached a deal to end a tanker logjam that built up on its Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits. It left millions of barrels of oil stuck waiting to enter two of the busiest maritime trade routes.

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.

Ukraine is a major global grain producer and exporter, but production and exports have fallen since Russia invaded the country last February and started blockading its seaports.

Updated: January 16, 2023, 4:21 PM