Turkey adds to uncertainty

Malcolm Latarche
Malcolm Latarche

19 July 2016


Three weeks on from Brexit and it looks as if Turkey may now be slamming the door on the EU and walking away from the potential membership it has sought for so long. Unfolding events in the nation that is at the crossroads between Europe and Asia may also have some very big effects on wider shipping and trade interests. The EU refugee crisis was caused in a big part by Turkish inaction in permitting the nightly departures from its beaches. And the influx has played its part in turning European attitudes to Turkey’s EU membership. To an outsider it would seem that the Turkish president is determined to follow a path that will mean fundamental changes in the politics and outlook of the country. Leaving aside the identity of the instigators of the attempted coup, it would appear that President Erdogan is using it to consolidate his hold on power and to turn Turkey from the secular path it has followed for so long. Ten years ago, Turkish Shipbuilders moved the country into the top ten nations and while it has been affected badly by the global decline in new orders it still produces quite large numbers of vessels. It also builds hulls for completion elsewhere in Europe. The decline in shipbuilding clearly cannot be blamed on recent events but it is doubtful that any momentum can be maintained if relationships with the EU turn sour. Access to Turkish shipbuilding and repair capacity may not be under threat yet or in the future, but an insular Turkey will not be an attractive place for European shipowners to do business with. With regard to trade, Turkey is a fairly significant producer of consumer goods and industrial equipment. It has been aided in growing this by the EU which through the European Investment Bank has even funded projects to the detriment of factories in EU member states. Turkey and the Black Sea to which it controls the entrance through the Bosporus are vital trade lanes for oil and gas to Europe from central Asia. The EU is already in a bad place as regards energy supplies thanks to the sanctions against Russia and developments in Turkey may put a question mark over stability of supply. The world in 2016 is turning into a very uncertain place for all and especially as far as shipping is concerned. Fortune will favour those who keep a finger on the pulse of the world and who can react rapidly to change. Shrewd minds may win out over fat wallets.