Elimination of way to check oil a tanker has raises concerns of oil smuggling

Following the elimination of the regulation, tankers no longer have to register their certificates at Turkish ports, Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Mustafa Balbay said at a press conference in Parliament on Friday.

According to the regulation, which was put in place in April 2002, all tankers that arrive at or leave a Turkish port needed to have an official certificate that indicates how much oil or similar material the ship in question has in its tanks. As Balbay said at the press conference, the regulation determined how much oil or a derivative oil product was able to be loaded into tankers.

The abolition of the regulation came on Dec. 2 at a time when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his family have been accused by Russia of being part of an illegal oil trade with the terrorist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Balbay revealed his misgivings that the abolition of the regulation requiring the registration of the calibration of tanks could help the illegal oil trade, saying that he was simply told by officials from a ministry in answer to his question on the issue that they did not think any problem would arise.

Balbay quoted the officials as telling him that the abolition of the regulation was part of efforts to harmonize Turkish regulations with those of the European Union. According to Balbay, even if such a step was necessary to comply with EU norms, an official record of the business conducted with countries outside the EU must be available. The certificate could be used by the company owning a tanker to prove that it does not contain any illegal oil, Balbay said.

Noting that the abolition came shortly after Russia claimed that Erdogan and his family are involved in the illegal oil trade, Balbay implied that the abolition would not help Turkey respond to the claim.

Gursel Yıldız, the secretary-general of the Chamber of Turkish Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, has said that he does not think any problem will arise following the abolition as far as big tankers are concerned because such ships have calibration certificates issued by internationally known calibration companies.

“The main concern is about smaller tankers,” Yıldız told Today’s Zaman, noting that his chamber was also told that the abolition came as part of efforts to harmonize with EU norms. The İstanbul-based chamber expects to issue a definitive opinion on the issue within two weeks.

Balbay also said he was told by officials from the Ministry of Science, Industry and Technology, the EU Affairs Ministry and the Ministry of Transportation that the certificate in question had an important function in maritime commerce and that they did not know how the gap left by the abolition would be filled.

After Turkey downed a Russian jet on its Syrian border two weeks ago, Russia accused Erdogan of being involved in the illegal oil trade with ISIL, while Erdogan vehemently denied the claim.

Following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s accusation that Turkey was obtaining oil from ISIL, Russian Deputy Minister of Defense Anatoly Antonov last week showed satellite images purporting to show ISIL transporting oil to Turkey. Speaking during an event in Moscow, Antonov said: “Turkey is the main consumer of the oil stolen from its rightful owners, Syria and Iraq. According to information we’ve received, the senior political leadership of the country — President Erdogan and his family — are involved in this criminal business.”

Antonov did not specify what direct evidence he had of the involvement of Erdogan and his family but instead said, “Maybe I’m being too blunt, but one can only entrust control over this thieving business to one’s closest associates.”

He also added: “In the West, no one has asked questions about the fact that the Turkish president’s son heads one of the biggest energy companies, or that his son [-in-law] has been appointed energy minister. What a marvelous family business!”