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Turkey to send second drill ship to Black Sea after announcing its largest ever natural gas discovery

15 September 2020

Turkey intends to send a second drill ship to the Black Sea, weeks after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the country’s largest ever natural gas discovery in August. The drill ship Kanuni will be sent to support the Fatih drill ship which discovered the 320 billion cubic metre natural gas field 100 nautical miles off Turkey’s northern coast.

The Kanuni drill ship - Image: Energy Minister Fatih Donmez
The Kanuni drill ship - Image: Energy Minister Fatih Donmez

In a statement on Twitter, Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said, “Our fleet, the symbol of our energy independence in our seas, will become stronger with its new member. Our Kanuni Drilling Ship, whose preparations are continuing, will start its drilling in the Black Sea and will add strength to Fatih's power.”

The discovery of the large natural gas field comes as more than a quarter of Turkey’s long-term gas contracts expire next year, including imports from Russia, Azerbaijan, and Nigeria. Turkey hopes that the discovery of the natural gas field in the Black Sea will help drive down its current energy deficit.

Donmez said in August that there is the potential for further natural gas to be found as Turkey’s ships drill deeper into the sea bed. Reuters reports that a senior energy ministry official said that Turkey hopes to announce the new discovery in October.

The Kanuni drill ship is currently located off Turkey’s southern coast in the eastern Mediterranean where tensions over natural resources with Greece and Cyprus remain high. All three countries have laid claim to potential hydrocarbons in the Mediterranean, leading to the United States expressing deep concern over Turkey’s actions.

In a brief visit to Cyprus on September 12, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged for a diplomatic end to the rising tensions. The eastern Mediterranean area is thought to be rich in natural gas which has led to claims and counterclaims over maritime areas.

In February, the European Union imposed sanctions on two people for their roles in Turkey’s drilling operations off the Cypriot coast. This came after Turkey stoked tensions with the EU in June 2019 when it sent a second drillship, the Yavuz, to Mediterranean waters.

Turkey, which does not have diplomatic relations with Cyprus, claims that certain areas in Cyprus’s offshore maritime zone, known as an EEZ, fall under the jurisdiction of Turkey or of Turkish Cypriots, who have their own self-declared state, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognised only by Turkey, and is internationally isolated. At the time, EU leaders warned Turkey to halt its gas drilling in disputed waters or face action from the bloc.

Turkey says that it has been conducting surveys on its own continental shelves and that it has legitimate claim over the areas of sea where it is operating. Turkey and Greece have no agreement in place regarding their continental shelves, while Turkey also disputes any claims by Cyprus due to having no diplomatic relations.

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