Strait of Hormuz – Why is the Strait of Hormuz so Important?

strait of hormuz

Strait of Hormuz is the world’s single most important oil passageway, forming a chokepoint between the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.

The 39km strait is the only route to the open ocean for over one-sixth of global oil production and one-third of the world’s liquified natural gas (LNG).

The Strait of Hormuz is a narrow waterway that connects the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman – the only passage from the oil-rich gulf to the Indian Ocean for maritime traffic.

How much crude oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz?

The Strait is among the world’s most important oil chokepoints. Oil tankers carry approximately 17 million barrels of oil each day through the Strait, or 20 to 30 percent of the world’s total consumption.

Other outlets for oil exports from the region, such as pipelines, are limited. As such, approximately 88 percent of all oil leaving the Persian Gulf goes via the Strait of Hormuz. The Strait itself is about 30 miles wide at the narrowest point.

Location of the Strait of Hormuz

The Strait of Hormuz links the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman in the southeast, and is situated between Iran and Oman. On the south coast is the United Arab Emirates. It is a very strategic strait.

upstream awards strait of hormuz

Why is Strait of Hormuz Important?

The strait is the only means of transporting goods or people to the rest of the world from the Persian Gulf.

  • Almost a fifth of the world’s oil passes through the Strait – some 17.4 million barrels per day (bpd). This can be compared to consumption of close to 100 million bpd  
  • Members of OPEC, Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Iraq, export most of their crude across the Strait.
  • Qatar, the world’s largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter, sends almost all its production across the Strait.

How deep and wide is the Strait of Hormuz?

The Strait is deep and wide enough to handle the world’s largest crude oil tankers, with about two-thirds of oil shipments carried by tankers in excess of 150,000 deadweight tons.

It is vulnerable due to its narrowness — some 50 kilometers (30 miles) — and its depth of no more than 60 meters (200 feet).

Although the narrowest point in the strait is just 33km wide, the shipping lanes in both directions are only 3km wide

Which Country Controls Strait of Hormuz?

The Strait’s geopolitical significance means it has long been a focal point of international tensions between Tehran and the West

In April 1959, Iran attempted to alter the legal status of the Strait by expanding the country’s territorial sea and declaring that only “innocent passage” was permitted through the area.

In July 1972, Oman did the same thing, meaning that the Strait was “closed” and was essentially a self-declared combination of Iran’s and Oman’s territorial waters.

And though it is technically regulated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982 (UNCLOS), Iran has signed but not ratified that convention and has historically acted to protect its interests in the passage.

Is the Strait of Hormuz in Iranian Water?

United Nation rules allow countries to exercise control up to 12 nautical miles (13.8 miles) from their coastline. This means that at its narrowest point, the Strait of Hormuz and its shipping lanes lie entirely within Iran and Oman’s territorial waters.

What is the Strait Used For?

The Strait of Hormuz is used for transporting large volumes of oil out of the Persian Gulf. It is the only route by sea from the gulf and this makes it a very strategic route for global economies.

Conclusion

Over 90 percent of oil exports from the Persian Gulf pass through the Strait of Hormuz, a vital sea passage only 30 miles wide at its narrowest point.

It is commonly believed that a tanker accident, a terrorist attack, or a military effort to close the Strait would send energy prices skyrocketing, threatening the global economy.

Some scenarios might temporarily interrupt oil flows, while others, such as a major Iranian military attack, might have longer-term consequences.

The Persian Gulf is the body of water bordering Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Oman. The Gulf covers area of approximately 87,000 square miles, with a maximum depth of about 330 feet and an average depth of about 115 feet.

The only maritime outlet from the Persian Gulf into the Gulf of Oman, the Indian Ocean, and the rest of the world is through a narrow chokepoint, the Strait of Hormuz.

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