Turkey to hold tankers for checks despite Bosphorus queue

ISTANBUL—Turkey's maritime authority says it would continue to block oil tankers without appropriate insurance letters from its waters and it needed time to make checks, dismissing pressure from abroad over a growing queue of vessels.

The number of tankers waiting in the Black Sea to cross Istanbul's Bosphorus strait on the way to the Mediterranean Sea rose to 19 from 16 earlier on Thursday, the Tribeca shipping agency said. With nine others waiting at the Dardanelles strait, there were a total of 28 tankers waiting, the agency said.

Talks between Western and Turkish officials on steps to resolve the queues were ongoing, a British Treasury official said.

The G7 group of countries, the European Union and Australia have agreed to bar shipping service providers like insurers from helping export Russian oil unless it is sold at an enforced low price, or cap, to deprive Moscow of wartime revenue.

U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo told Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal in a call on Wednesday that the price cap only applies to Russian oil and does not necessitate additional checks on ships passing through Turkish territorial waters, the U.S. Treasury Department said.

However, Turkey has had a separate measure in force since the start of the month, which is causing a logjam. It requires vessels to provide proof they have insurance covering the duration of their transit through the Bosphorus strait or when calling at Turkish ports. In Ankara, the Directorate General for Maritime Affairs said it was unacceptable to pressure Turkey over what it called "routine" insurance checks in its waters.

The Transport Ministry body also said it could remove tankers without proper documentation from its waters or require from them a new P&I insurance letter that covers their journey through its territory.

In its tally, Tribeca cited tankers longer than 200 m waiting north of the Bosphorus and said none had a time set for crossing.

At the Dardanelles strait further south, nine tankers were waiting to cross southbound, down from 12 a day earlier, the agency said. Three tankers were scheduled to pass through that strait on Thursday, two en route from Tuapse in Russia to Fujairah in the UAE and one en route from Tuzla in Turkey to Sidi Kerir in Egypt.

(Additional reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, Jonathan Spicer, Alexandra Hudson)

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