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Conflicting Interests in the Turkish Straits: Is the Free Passage of Merchant Vessels still Applicable?

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image of The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law

The issue of the regulation of navigation through Turkish straits proved to be one of the most sensitive and thorny question of international law of the sea in the last years. Transit through theses waters is regulated by a 1936 Convention—"a long-standing" convention according to the article 35, lett. c, of UNCLOS—that is more concerned with the passage regime of warships rather than the transit of commercial vessels. In the last decades, the Montreux Convention has showed its inadequacy in regulating this latter kind navigation: the free-passage principle, by day and night without obstacles, could be considered well grounded time ago, when essentially vessels carrying cereal went through these waters. But nowadays it seems hazardous, for marine environment and security of populations, allowing free and unimpeded transit of fifteen tankers a day. It follows that the problem is how can Turkey, the only coastal State of the Straits (and international community) prevent in the future accidents or collisions between ships carrying oil, chemical or radioactive substances, endangering seriously the regional ecosystem?


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