>A small review of 2008


When a year ends, it has become more or less a custom to make some Top-(n) lists to review the important events, happenings of that year.

Well, I will not make an exception. Here is a 5 point list about the most important events for Turkish Navy in 2008:

  1. The launching of F-511 TCG Heybeliada: The first ship of MILGEM is the first modern warship designed and built in Turkey. Since 1980’ies Turkish Naval Shipyards built several modern frigates. But these were of German origin. Furthermore German material packages, assistance and know-how were needed in order to complete the production.

    TCG Heybeliada is different. For the first time in recent history, Turkish Navy will have a ship that it tailor made for its own wishes, needs and hopefully its own expectations. Although the ship is designed and built by a naval yard, this project is also a strong showcase for the Turkish shipbuilding industry. Most of the sub systems and equipment is acquired from local companies. Turkish Navy and Undersecretariat of Defence Industries to developed new project management skills and an interactivity with Turkish industry.

  2. The selection of Type 214 submarines: On 22 July 2008 it was announced, that Type 214 submarines of HDW has won the tender, for 6 AIP submarines Turkey wished to acquire. Back in 1998 when Greece announced that she was going to buy 4 Type 214 submarines, many thought that Turkey would order the same submarines for the on going submarines building project. But Turkish Navy decided to continue with the proven Type 209 and constructed 4 additional submarines.

    During the last 10 years the design of Type 214 has matured and this submarine was chosen besides Greece by South Korea, Portugal and Brazil. During the international tender one of the most important demands of Turkish Navy was that the offered solutions both the AIP system and the submarine must have been in service. Among the contenders Scorpene, S-80, Type 214 only the latter was able to fulfill this demand completely.

    The estimated cost of this project is 2.5 billion euros. The submarines will be built in Gölcük Naval Shipyard. This shipyard has also built 11 of the Turkey’s existing 14 submarines.

  3. Russian – Georgian War: This short but brutal war will haunt the regions for many years to come. The Trans-Caucasian region was never a stable and harmonious place anyway. The latest Russian intervention did not made things easier. On the naval side we have witnessed a dramatic naval battle and almost total destruction of Georgian naval forces.

    This war brought the Treaty of Montreux and Turkey’s difficult job of policing it into the focus once more. The Montreux Convention allows merchant shipping unhindered passage but regulates the passage of military ships in detail. The treaty makes a distinction between Black Sea nations and non Black Sea nations. The navies of Black Sea nations enjoy freedom of movement through the Straits to a certain degree. On the other hand, the treaty strictly regulates the type of warships that non Black Sea navies can send to the Black Sea, according to the ships’ armament and displacement specifications.

    The Russians accused Turkey of allowing too many NATO ships entering into the Black Sea. The Americans accused Turkey of not allowing enough warships to deliver aid to Georgia. Turkey in the meantime tried to follow the Montreux Treaty and protect the status qua of the Turkish Straits. The situation in the Black Sea region will never be before the war anymore.

  4. The piracy at the Horn of Africa: For the most of the Turkish population pirates were fictional figures like Captain Jack Sparrow from the movies Pirates of the Caribbean.

    But when Somalian pirates hijacked on 29th October 2008 a Turkish owned cargo ship, the notion of modern day pirates came into Turkish public conscious. The pirates armed with the ubiquitous AK-47’s and RPG-7, modern radars and VHF radios are a treat to international trade and to lives of innocent civilians. Turkish Navy played a humble role in combating these pirates when NATO decided to send SNMG-2 to escort the merchant ships of World Food Program, carrying much need aids to Somalia. F-494 TCG Gediz sailed to Gulf of Aden and to Indian Ocean as a part of SNMG-2. She has escorted WFP ships and deterred pirates of attacking several merchants.

  5. The never ending wrestling at the Aegean: Two important events went by without being catching the public attention very much. In May Greek General Staff Chief General Dimitros Grapsas visited Turkey. In October Commander of Turkish Navy Admiral Metin Ataç visited Athens. Despite these high ranking visits and despite the talks between the peers and despite Greek attendance of Turkish naval exercise the constant wrestling in the Aegean continues as ever.

    Since beginning of December Turkish and Greek fisherman show up along Kardak Islets to hunt for Gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata). Along with the fisherman both countries’ coast guard boats show up to in order to prevent the boats of other party to cross the border. As the ownership of these islets are still disputable so is the border. This is just one example. The stories of illegal immigrants are far sadder.

>A few words about Montreux

>The armed conflict between Russia and Georgia in August 2008 brought the Montreux Convention, which can be regarded as a very technical and almost obscure treaty into the stage lights. This treaty was the result of a diplomatic solution to the problem on who was going to control the Turkish Straits.

The treaty of Lausanne officially ended the presence of Ottoman Empire and recognized the new Turkish republic. However, one important issue that this treaty did not solve was the control of the Turkish Straits.

The region surrounding the Turkish Straits was demilitarized as dictated by the treaty of Lausanne and the passage of ships was regulated by an international body called The Straits Commission. The regulation was much simple and straightforward allowing unrestricted civilian and military traffic.

In 1936 Turkey called for a conference about to change the status of Turkish Straits.Upon this call, Australia, Bulgaria, France, Japan, England, Romania, Greece, Yugoslavia, USSR and Turkey held a conference about the issue between 21 June and 20 July 1936 in Montreux, Switzerland.

Interestingly USA, where today the Montreux Convention is much debated, did neither participate the conference, nor sent a representative to observe the negotiations.

The convention consisting of 29 articles, four annexes and one protocol was duly signed by the participants on 20th July 1936.

The Montreux Convention gave Turkey the sovereignty of the Straits while allowing merchant shipping unhindered passage. After the treaty was signed, Turkey started to remilitarize the Straits immediately. As a result, Istanbul was no longer defenseless, which was crucial for Turkey, as the dooming Second World War came closer. The treaty granted Turkey the authority to close the Straits to any maritime movement, if Turkey’s security was threatened.

Montreux regulates the passage of military ships in detail. The treaty makes a distinction between Black Sea nations and non Black Sea nations. The navies of Black Sea nations enjoy freedom of movement through the Straits to a certain degree. On the other hand, the treaty strictly regulates the type of warships that non Black Sea navies can send to the Black Sea, according to the ships’ armament and displacement specifications. The duration of stay of the warship belonging to a non Black Sea nation in the Black sea is noted as no more than 21 days. The number of warships that non Black Sea navies can have in the Black Sea at the same time is limited to a total of nine.

Policing of Montreux has not been always easy. During the Cold War years Turkey was criticized by USA and by USSR for allowing other side’s ships pass.

Since the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the convention has proved a mixed blessing, as the Bosporus and Dardanelles have become a tanker turnpike; and under the terms of Montreux, Turkey cannot even collect toll or insist that merchantmen use pilots to navigate the sinuous channel. The Turkish Straits now see traffic of around 50,000 vessels annually, a number that includes nearly 5,000 tankers, making the passage the world’s second busiest maritime strait after the Straits of Malacca and the only one that bisects a major city, Istanbul. In 2006 10,154 tankers transited the channel.

>Mullen says U.S. abides by Montreux Convention

>I know that the news of Lehmann Bros. filing for bankruptcy captured the attention of world today. But there was a very important guest in Turkey making important meetings: Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The result of this visit will be visible in the comming days.


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