A transport ship passes through the Bosphorus in Istanbul. Photo: Anadolu Agency via AFP / Berk Ozkan

While Turkey’s decision to go ahead with canal that will slice through Istanbul continues to be met with skepticism, it is just one of many developments that could transform transportation in the region, the Journal of Commerce reports.

The Istanbul Canal, which Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has dubbed his “crazy project,” would connect the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara and reportedly render half of Istanbul an island.

The project, first promised by Erdogan in 2011, would substantially reduce transit times of the more than 53,000 ships that sail through the Bosphorus, according to the JOC article, but its commercial viability remains open to doubt. Companies would be forced to pay substantially higher transit fees as they are granted free passage through the Bosphorus Strait.

Another mega-project, the new Istanbul airport, is already nearing completion. The city’s third airport, soon to be one of the world’s largest, is expected to open partially in the first quarter of this year, well ahead of schedule.

The airport’s opening will boost Turkey’s push to become a global logistics hub at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, along with the country’s involvement in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. As part of the BRI, Turkey launched a rail link between Azerbaijan and Georgia dubbed the “Middle Corridor” in October, connecting Europe with China while bypassing Russia.

Amid all these developments, Turkey’s shipping, logistics and port companies are steadily growing their operations.

Industrial and shipping/shipbuilding conglomerate Yildirim is currently ranked 15th globally, and is projected to jump into the top 10 by 2025.

Ekol Logistics recently opened branches in Paris and Lyon as part of efforts to increase freight traffic between Paris and the Mediterranean. This, as Turkish companies expand into Europe despite fraying political ties between Erdogan’s administration and the European Union.

The country’s presence in the Mediterranean has been further consolidated by UN Ro-Ro’s US$257 million acquisition of domestic rival, adding four ships to the group’s fleet.

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