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Monday, 6 August, 2001, 20:23 GMT 21:23 UK
Tight squeeze in the Bosphorus
Bosphorous bridge
The ship scrapes under a bridge
By Chris Morris in Istanbul

A huge construction ship has been towed safely through the Bosphorus in Istanbul en route to the Black Sea where it will lay the underwater section of a multi-billion dollar gas pipeline from Russia to Turkey.

Residents of Istanbul worry about oil tankers passing through the middle of their city but they had never seen anything quite like this one.

Istanbul residents watch the ship
People in Istanbul worry about the tankers
The giant construction ship only just made it safely under both the bridges spanning the Bosphorus.

It had to have its cranes and construction towers folded into a horizontal position and had to be partially filled with water to lower its floatation level.

Four tugs pulled it carefully along the narrow channel while rescue boats and fire-fighters were also on standby.

Challenge

In the Black Sea the ship faces another daunting challenge - to lay the underwater section of the deepest gas pipeline in the world.

It is part of the Blue Stream project which is due to become operational early next year.

The pipeline will supply billions of cubic metres of Russian natural gas to Turkey but the project is controversial.

It has been mired in corruption allegations in Turkey and critics question the technical feasibility of maintaining a pipeline which is so deep under water.

Concern has also been expressed that Turkey will become far too dependent on Russia as a supplier of its basic energy needs.

The Turkish authorities point out that they are planning to import gas from elsewhere as well but that has proved equally contentious with some of their allies.

The pipeline to supply Iranian natural gas to Turkey is due to come on stream in the next few months much to the dismay of the United States.

See also:

26 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Oil-rich Kazakhstan opens pipeline
12 Mar 01 | Europe
Caspian gas deal signed
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