A failed Turkish military coup attempt briefly closed the Bosphorus Strait to shipping traffic on Saturday, reminding the world of Turkey’s huge and growing importance as a transit route for commodities between Russia, Central Asia and Europe.
Turkish authorities thwarted a coup by rebels to topple President Tayyip Erdogan.
Below are the key facts about Turkey’s role as a major transit country for oil and grains, as well as a significant consumer of commodities such as natural gas and gold.
The Bosphorus is one of the world’s most important chokepoints for the maritime transit of oil. Over 3 percent of global supply or 3 million barrels per day, mainly from Russia and the Caspian Sea, passes through the 17-mile waterway that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara and eventually to the Mediterranean.
The route, which also ships vast amounts of grains from Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan to world markets, was closed for several hours on Saturday for security reasons. Around one-quarter of the world’s grain exports are shipped from Black Sea ports.
Only half a mile wide at the narrowest point, the Turkish Straits are among the world’s most difficult waterways.
About 48,000 vessels transit the straits each year, making this area one of the world’s busiest maritime gateways, according to the U.S. government. Commercial shipping has the right of free passage through the straits in peacetime, although Turkey claims the right to impose regulations for safety and environmental purposes.
For U.S. government analysis of the role of the Bosphorus:
CASPIAN SEA ROUTE
Pipelines bypass the Bosphorus by carrying around 0.7 million bpd of oil from Caspian Sea countries such as Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan directly to Turkey’s export terminals on the Mediterranean, such as the port of Ceyhan.
A BP-led group operating oil and gas pipelines running from Azerbaijan to Turkey via Georgia said there had been no disruption to shipments.
KURDISH OIL FLOWS, IRAN
Ceyhan is also the final destination for an oil pipeline running from Iraqi Kurdistan and carrying some 0.5 million bpd. A source close to Kurdish oil export operations said they were flowing as usual.
Turkey also receives gas and some petrochemical products from neighbouring Iran. Iranian Mehr news agency said Iran had temporarily stopped exports of petrochemical products to Turkey due to a closure of the border between the two countries.
Besides its transit role, Turkey is also a very important consumer of commodities in its own right. It is one of the top five gas users in Europe, on a par with France.
Turkey refines slightly less than 1 million bpd of oil, making it one of the top seven consumers in Europe, on a par with the Netherlands. It oil comes from Iraq, the Caspian Sea, Iran and Russia. Turkey takes its gas mainly from Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran.
GRAINS AND GOLD
Turkey is the second-largest importer of Russian wheat after Egypt. It bought 3 million tonnes from July 2015 to May 2016.
It also imports barley and corn via Russia’s Black Sea ports.
In total, Turkey is forecast to import 4.3 million tonnes of wheat in the current 2015/16 season, down from 5.95 million in 2014/15.
It is also forecast to import 900,000 tonnes of corn (maize) in 2015/16, down from 2.36 million in 2014/15. The drop reflects a rise in domestic production.
Turkey is one of the top 10 gold markets in the world, with demand reaching 72 tonnes (around $3 billion) in 2015, according to data from the World Gold Council.
Gold is a traditional investment for many Turks seeking to hedge against sharp fluctuations in their currency.