A system has been installed in 185 lighthouses across Turkey and will be set up in 195 more by the end of 2012 to better protect the country's coasts from accidents.
The Automatic Identification System (AIS) was developed by Turkish engineers and first installed in 2007 in İstanbul lighthouses.
Coastal safety is one of the major issues in Turkey, a country surrounded by water on three sides with busy ship traffic. A total of 55,000 ships pass every year through the Bosporus strait alone. Dry cargo vessels make up 60 percent of the ships while 16 percent are tankers, 12 percent bulk cargo, 5 percent containers and 7 percent other types of ships. Figures show that thousands of ships with dangerous loads pass through the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits, threatening the coasts of the Black Sea and Marmara Sea. Every year, these ships are loaded with roughly 144 million tons of hazardous materials.
The Ministry of Transportation and Communication launched the AIS with the Directorate General for Coastal Safety. In the system, the ships are coded by color. For instance, ships loaded with hazardous materials are shown in red while passenger ships are shown in blue. Every ship that passes close to a Turkish coast is observed around the clock by the offices of the Directorate General for Coastal Safety. Clicking on each ship, an official can see the name of the ship, what kind of materials it is loaded with, its speed and other data. In this way, officials can intervene in the ship's course if required for safety reasons. The system also provides data for ships. Officials at lighthouses inform ships about the depth of the sea and instant wind speed.
The average age of the ships that pass through the Bosporus strait is 23, according to data taken from the Directorate General for Coastal Safety. The average age for tankers is 10 and for passenger ships 20.
Meanwhile, Director General for Coastal Safety Salih Orakçı told Today's Zaman that İstanbul's inactive lighthouses are being opened to the public; in the past, they were closed with signs reading “no entry.” The lighthouses are leased at auction, and some of them now serve as restaurants or observation towers. The Directorate General for Coastal Safety earns TL 1.3 million every year from rent. Numerous lighthouses serve as museums.