Traffic on the busy Bosphorus connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranean was blocked for several hours on the morning of January 16 after one of the bulkers transporting foodstuffs from Ukraine grounded blocking the channel. Turkey is closely monitoring the channel having experienced an increased number of incidents in the past few months in part tied to the more than 1,300 transits made by vessels involved in the grain initiative with Ukraine.
Turkish officials reported that they received notice of the latest incident at 7:30 a.m. local time this morning and dispatched a total of nine tugs as well as patrol vessels. In the television videos, Turkish naval vessels can be seen patrolling the area during the rescue effort.
The MMK–1 registered in Palau is a 31-year-old ship. Records from the Joint Coordination Center overseeing the grain initiative indicate it was the ship’s first trip under the program to Ukraine. The 13,790 dwt bulker arrived in the Ukraine port of Yuzhnny on December 31 and loaded 13,000 metric tons of peas bound for the Turkish port of Mersin. The ship departed Ukraine on January 8.
At the northern end of the Bosphorus, the MMK-1 reportedly suffered a mechanical problem losing steering control. The bow of the 472-foot vessel swung toward shore and grounded on the Asian side of the channel. All traffic was suspended after the grounding.
MKK-1 isimli gemi, bal?k adam ekibimizin incelemesi sonras? bulundu?u yerden kurtar?l?p yüzdürülerek ?stanbul GTH Merkezimiz koordinasyonunda Kurtarma Uzman?m?z, NENE HATUN Gemimiz, NAZIM TUR, KURTARMA- 8, 9 Römorkörlerimiz ve KEGM-8 Botumuz refakatinde Büyükdere’ye demirletildi. pic.twitter.com/LNt4Nxf2RW
— KEGM (@kiyiemniyet) January 16, 2023
After about four hours, the tugs were able to free the vessel. It was moved to the anchorage at Tuzla for further inspections. There were no reports of oil leaks or injuries during the grounding.
Turkey has experienced several incidents with bulkers in the past few months. Several of the ships have reported engine troubles requiring assistance in the waterway. There have been a few minor collisions and another vessel grounded in September also interfering with the movement of ships in the area.
Since the grain initiative officially got underway on August 1, 2022, the UN which is overseeing the movement of ships reports a total of 1,300 voyages. This includes 655 vessels that were outbound carrying shipments from Ukraine for a total of 17 million tons shipped. Vessel volume has slowed now that winter has reached the area but currently 32 ships are waiting for inspections, down by more than half from the peak backlog. The MKK-1 is among 23 loaded ships from Ukraine that are seeking inspections at Istanbul before proceeding on their voyages.