Ship that crashed into Istanbul waterfront mansion moored in Marmara Sea
A cargo vessel that crashed into a waterside mansion on the Bosphorus on April 7 has been moored in the Marmara Sea for investigation, with the owners of the mansion demanding proper prosecution against those in charge of maritime traffic.
“The ship that was involved in the accident has been routed to the Ahırkapı anchor point. There were no casualties or marine pollution caused by the incident. It was caused by an abrupt halt of the main engine,” said the Istanbul Governor’s Office in a statement on April 7.
The Maltese-flagged Vitaspirit, a 225-meter (740 foot) vessel en route from Russia to Saudi Arabia, was guided by a harbor pilot, it said.
The building’s roof and upper floors collapsed and television pictures showed the basement slumping into the water.
Images showed the stricken vessel ramming the mansion on the Asian side of the Bosphorus with the tip of its bow, sending a cloud of dust and rubble into the air as the building collapsed.
“It was like a horror film. Nobody understood what was going on. The ship, as tall as the building, had already ploughed before we went downstairs to the garden,” said Aslı Zeynep Ertürer, one of the members of the family that owns the mansion.
“It is a 200-year-old mansion. It is a building we have sustained fighting tooth and nail. The exterior parts can be repaired somehow but we have lost many valuable properties we had been trying to protect inside,” she told Doğan News Agency on April 8.
The family will file a complaint against whoever is responsible for maritime security, according to their lawyer, Nazlı Selek.
“We expect support from the public. We expect support from all governmental agencies and institutes for this national wealth. We expect support for the prosecution of the individuals responsible and the investigation to be done properly,” she said.
Such waterside mansions, known as yalis in Turkish, are among the most historic and expensive properties on the waterway that runs through Istanbul and divides Europe and Asia.
The wooden Hekimbaşı Salih Efendi mansion was built by Ottoman nobles in the 19th century.
The Bosphorus is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and in 2017 it was transited by some 42,000 military, naval and commercial vessels.
The government says the risk of such accidents shows the need to build its planned and hugely controversial new canal for Istanbul that would take the shipping traffic and lessen the pressure on the Bosphorus.
Cem Devrim Yaylalı, an Istanbul-based Turkish naval expert and editor of the Bosphorus Naval News website, said there was always a risk of such an incident in the Bosphorus but it should be avoided.
“The risk is there but it is manageable if all parts of the system work as they should,” he said.
“That means the Vessel Traffic Service [traffic control for the ships], the pilots and the ships’ crew and machinery need to work as advertised,” he said.
There has been a litany of shipping accidents in the last decades in the Bosphorus although far fewer in recent years as safety standards and technology improved.
One of the worst was the deadly December 1960 collision between the Yugoslav-flagged tanker Petar Zoranic and the Greek vessel World Harmony that caused a fire which lasted for weeks.
Turkish Nobel prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk famously recounts in his 2003 memoir “Istanbul: Memories and the City” the 1963 ramming of a Soviet vessel into the living room of a sleeping Istanbul family.