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The Strait of Hormuz

View of a dock at Dibba located on the Musanda...
The Strait of Hormuz /hɔrˈmz/ Persian: تَنگِه هُرمُزTangeh-ye Hormoz, Arabic: مَضيق هُرمُزMaḍīq Hurmuz) is a strait between the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf. It is the only sea passage from the Persian Gulf to the open ocean and is one of the world's most strategically important choke points. On the north coast is Iran, and on the south coast is the United Arab Emirates and Musandam, an exclave of Oman. At its narrowest, the strait is 21 nautical miles (39 km) wide.[1]
About 20% of the world's petroleum, and about 35% of the petroleum traded by sea, passes through the strait making it a highly important strategic location for international trade.[1]
 
To reduce the risk of collision, ships moving through the Strait follow a Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS): inbound ships use one lane, outbound ships another, each lane being two miles wide. The lanes are separated by a two-mile-wide "median".
To traverse the Strait, ships pass through the territorial waters of Iran and Oman under the transit passage provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.[4] Although not all countries have ratified the convention,[5] most countries, including the U.S.,[6] accept these customary navigation rules as codified in the Convention.
Oman has a radar site Link Quality Indicator (LQI) to monitor the TSS in the Strait of Hormuz. This site is on a small island on the peak of Musandam Peninsula.

  Traffic statistics

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in the year 2011 an average of 14 tankers per day passed out of the Persian Gulf through the Strait carrying 17 million barrels (2,700,000 m3) of crude oil. This was said to represent 35% of the world's seaborne oil shipments and 20% of oil traded worldwide. The report stated that more than 85% of these crude oil exports went to Asian markets, with Japan, India, South Korea and China the largest destinations.[1]
A 2007 report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies also stated that 17 million barrels passed out of the Gulf daily, but that oil flows through the Strait accounted for roughly 40% of all world-traded oil[7]
 
 
On the 18th of April 1988, the U.S. Navy waged a one-day battle against Iranian forces in and around the strait. The battle, dubbed Operation Praying Mantis by the U.S. side was launched in retaliation for the 14th of April mining of the USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) by Iran. U.S. forces sank one frigate, one gunboat, and as many as six armed speedboats in the engagement and seriously damaged a second frigate.

 The downing of Iran Air 655

On the 3rd of July 1988, 290 people were killed when an Iran Air Airbus A300 passenger jet was shot down over the strait by the United States Navy guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes in a case of mistaken identity.

  Collision between USS Newport News and tanker Mogamigawa

On the 8th of January 2007, the nuclear submarine USS Newport News, traveling submerged, struck M/V Mogamigawa, a 300,000-ton Japanese-flagged very large crude tanker, south of the strait.[8] There were no injuries, and no oil leaked from the tanker.
Ability of Iran to hinder shipping
Millennium Challenge 2002 was a major war game exercise conducted by the United States armed forces in 2002. According to a 2012 article in The Christian Science Monitor, it simulated an attempt by Iran to close the strait. The assumptions and results were controversial.[30]
A 2008 article in International Security contended that Iran could seal off or impede traffic in the Strait for a month, and an attempt by the U.S. to reopen it would be likely to escalate the conflict.[31] In a later issue, however, the journal published a response which questioned some key assumptions and suggested a much shorter timeline for re-opening.[32]
In December 2011 Iran's navy began a ten-day exercise in international waters along the strait. The Iranian Navy Commander, Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, stated that the strait would not be closed during the exercise; Iranian forces could easily accomplish that but such a decision must be made at a political level.[33][34]
Captain John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, was quoted in a December 2011 Reuters article: "Efforts to increase tension in that part of the world are unhelpful and counter-productive. For our part, we are comfortable that we have in the region sufficient capabilities to honor our commitments to our friends and partners, as well as the international community." In the same article, Suzanne Maloney, an Iran expert at the Brookings Institution, said, "The expectation is that the U.S. military could address any Iranian threat relatively quickly."[35]
General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in January 2012 that Iran “has invested in capabilities that could, in fact, for a period of time block the Strait of Hormuz.” He also stated, “We’ve invested in capabilities to ensure that if that happens, we can defeat that.”[36]

  Alternative shipping routes

In June 2012, Saudi Arabia reopened the Iraq Pipeline through Saudi Arabia (IPSA), which was confiscated from Iraq in 2001 and travels from Iraq across Saudi Arabia to a Red Sea port. It will have a capacity of 1.65 million barrels per day.[37]
In July 2012, the UAE began using a new pipeline from the Habshan fields in Abu Dhabi to the Fujairah oil terminal on the Gulf of Oman, effectively bypassing the Strait of Hormuz. It was constructed by China and will have a maximum capacity of around 2 million barrels per day, over three-fourths of the UAE's 2012 production rate. The UAE is also increasing Fujairah's storage and off-loading capacities.[37][38]
In a July 2012 Foreign Policy article, Gal Luft compared Iran and the Strait of Hormuz to the Ottoman Empire and the Dardanelles, a choke point for shipments of Russian grain a century ago. He indicated that tensions involving the Strait of Hormuz are leading those currently dependent on shipments from the Gulf to find alternative shipping capabilities. He stated that Saudi Arabia was considering building new pipelines to Oman and Yemen, and that Iraq might revive the disused Iraq-Syria pipeline to ship crude to the Mediterranean. Luft stated that reducing Hormuz traffic "presents the West with a new opportunity to augment its current Iran containment strategy."[37]
 
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