The Port of Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey. The old city is located on the peninsula between Europe and Asia, covering both continents. It was the capital of the Byzantine Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Turkish Republic. Located on a peninsula at the entrance to the Black Sea, the Port of Istanbul is about 295 nautical miles southwest of the Port of Sevastopol in Ukraine and about 378 nautical miles northeast of Greece's Port of Piraeus. In 2005, over 9.7 million people lived in the Port of Istanbul.
In addition to housing Turkey's biggest and busiest ports, the Port of Istanbul is the country's industrial center and an important hub for tourism. The Port of Istanbul offers maritime transportation services in many forms ranging from dinghies and small ferries to large international liners.
Cotton, olive oil, fruit, and tobacco are produced in the Port of Istanbul's hinterland, and local manufacturers produce textiles, oils, electronics, metal ware, rubber, leather, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, automobiles and vehicles, glass, electronics, and alcohol. Forbes magazine reported in 2008 that the Port of Istanbul is home to 35 billionaires. The Port of Istanbul generates over half of Turkey's trade and almost half of its wholesale trade. The Port of Istanbul is also an important tourist destination. The tourist industry caters to vacationers and traveling professionals. In 2006, over 23 million tourists visited the country, most of who arrived through the Port of Istanbul.
For over 2500 years, the Port of Istanbul has been both a bridge and a barrier for cultures, religions, and imperial powers. Archeological evidence suggests that the first human habitation of the area was in the Copper Age. Artifacts dating from 5500 to 3500 BC have been found in the Fikirtepe mound on the Anatolian side of the Port of Istanbul.
A Phoenician port settlement was found in nearby Chalcedon, the first place Greek settlers colonized in 685 BC. Thracian tribes established an ancient port called Lygos between the 13th and 11th Centuries BC. Today's Topkapi Palace now stands on the site of Lygos, which was also the location of the Byzantine Acropolis. According to legend, Byzas was the leader of the Greeks who took the peninsula from the Thracian tribes and built the city of Byzantium in 657 BC.
Roman emperor Septimius Severus razed the future Port of Istanbul for opposing his forces in civil war, but he rebuilt it with the name August Antonina. Constantine the Great made the Port of Istanbul the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire in 330 AD, calling it New Rome and later Constantinopolis.
The Fourth Crusade in the early 13th Century was aimed at Jerusalem, but the Crusaders sacked Constantinople instead. The future Port of Istanbul then became the Catholic Church's eastern center, but it fell into an economic and cultural decline. In the 13th Century, Arabs used the name they heard Byzantines use for the city, calling it Istinpolin, and over the centuries, that name evolved to Istanbul.
In 1453, Sultan Mehmed II captured the Port of Istanbul following a 53-day siege, and he proclaimed it the capital of the Ottoman Empire. The Sultan created the Grand Bazaar and invited fleeing Catholics to return. He freed prisoners and ordered four thousand families from Rumelia and Anatolia to settle the Port of Istanbul. He intentionally imported different cultures to create a cosmopolitan society.
The Port of Istanbul was first used for sea-borne trade during the Ottoman period when small boats and barges carried passengers and cargo across the Marmara Sea and along the Golden Horn and Bosporus coasts. The Tersane-i Amire (Grand Shipyard) was established in the Port of Istanbul in 1455 for ship building. The vessels created there, as well as at other shipyards in the Ottoman Empire, formed the foundation for today's Turkey Maritime Enterprise.
The Sultan also constructed many architectural monuments (like the Topkapi Palace and Eyup Sultan Mosque), schools, public baths, and hospitals in the Port of Istanbul. From 1520 to 1566, Suleiman the Magnificent reigned the Ottoman Empire, inspiring an era of great architectural and artistic achievement. Many new mosques and buildings sprang up, and the arts of calligraphy and ceramics flourished.
During the Ottoman period in 1827, the Port of Istanbul's first steamship was purchased. In 1837, the first steam passenger vessel was built in the Tersane-I Amire. By 1843, the core of the Turkey Maritime Organization Inc. was established and started transporting passengers from the Port of Istanbul to Kadikoy and nearby Islands. Changing its name several times, by 1878, the organization was called Idare-i Mahsusa. It extended passenger transportation throughout the Bosporus region. The sea transport connected the Port of Istanbul with the Eastern Railroads.
In 1909, politics and economic pressures led to the operation of vessels by an English company. However, the company did not meet its obligations, and the Port of Istanbul operations were returned to the Idare-i Mahsusa in 1910, although it was under the name of the Ottoman Seyr-i Sefain Administration.
In 1923, the Republic of Turkey was established, its capital was moved to Ankara, and the Port of Istanbul took a back seat to the new capital. In 1925, Turkish law renamed the shipping operation to the Turkey Seyr-i Sefain Administration, and new vessels were added to the fleet.
In 1933, the Turkey Seyr-i Sefain Administration was divided into three enterprises by Turkish law. These included AKAY, responsible for Port of Istanbul and the surrounding domestic routes; Maritime lines (responsible for external lines serving the Sea of Marmara, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Black Sea); and the Factory and Pools Directorates.
AKAY extended its fleet by purchasing new vessels and expanding its routes to from the Port of Istanbul to Baghdad. The three enterprises were brought under the Ministry of Economy in 1937. In 1944, the State Maritime Lines and Enterprises General Directorate were established. In 1951, Denizcilik Bankasi TAO was established with responsibility for port affairs, coast security, transportation in the Turkish coasts and in foreign seas, banking activities, vessel rescue, and shipyard business.
In the 1950s, many city infrastructure improvements were made, even at the expense of historic buildings. The Port of Istanbul's population increased dramatically in the 1970s as people came in search of work in the many factories being constructed on the Port of Istanbul's outskirts. Population growth forced a housing boom, and outlying villages were swallowed by the greater metropolitan area.
In 1983, the Denizcilik Bankasi TAO was made the Turkey Maritime Organization General Directorate by government decree, then the name was changed again to Turkey Maritime Enterprises General Directorate in 1984. The Port of Istanbul shipyard business was separated from the port operation organization and affiliated with the Turkey Vessel Industry Inc. in 1985.
In 1994, the Turkish government decided to privatize Port of Istanbul and other port operations. The Turkey Maritime Enterprise became the TDI Turkish Maritime Organization Inc. under the Privatization Administration Presidency.
Today, the Port of Istanbul is the world's 4th largest city and the 20th largest urban area. It is Turkey's financial and cultural center, covering 27 districts in the Istanbul province. Located on the Bosporus Strait that links the Sea of Marmara with the Black Sea, its natural harbor is called the Golden Horn.
The only urban area with territory on two continents, the historic Port of Istanbul was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1985 and was chosen as the European Capital of Culture for 2010. Interestingly, the official name of the city was Constantinople until 1930 when the Turkish Post Office made the change to Istanbul.