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Strait of Hormuz: Map

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Historical map of the area (1892)
Blue arrows illustrate the strait's Traffic Separation Scheme.
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Map of Strait of Hormuz with maritime political boundaries (2004)
The Strait of Hormuz ( - Madīq Hurmuz, - Tangeh-ye Hormoz) is a narrow, strategically important waterway between the Gulf of Omanmarker in the southeast and the Persian Gulfmarker. On the north coast is Iranmarker and on the south coast is the United Arab Emiratesmarker and Musandammarker, an exclave of Omanmarker.

The strait at its narrowest is wide. It is the only sea passage to the open ocean for large areas of the petroleum-exporting Persian Gulfmarker. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, an average of about 15 tankers carrying 16.5 to 17 million barrels of crude oil normally pass through the strait every day, making it one of the world's most strategically important choke points. This represents 40% of the world's seaborne oil shipments, and 20% of all world shipments.

Navigation

Ships moving through the Strait follow a Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS), which separates inbound from outbound traffic to reduce the risk of collision. The traffic lane is six miles (10 km) wide, including two two-mile (3 km)-wide traffic lanes, one inbound and one outbound, separated by a two-mile (3 km) wide separation 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. Although not all countries have ratified the convention, most countries, including the U.S., accept these customary navigation rules as codified in the Convention.Oman has a radar site LQI to monitor the TSS in the strait of Hormuz. This site is located on a small island on the peak of Mussandam Peninsula.

Etymology

The opening to the Persian Gulf was described, but not given a name, in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, a 1st-century mariner's guide:

Ch.35. At the upper end of these Calaei islands is a range of mountains called Calon, and there follows not far beyond, the mouth of the Persian Gulf, where there is much diving for the pearl-mussel. To the left of the straits are great mountains called Asabon, and to the right there rises in full view another round and high mountain called Semiramis; between them the passage across the strait is about six hundred stadia; beyond which that very great and broad sea, the Persian Gulf, reaches far into the interior. At the upper end of this gulf there is a market-town designated by law called Apologus, situated near Charaex Spasini and the River Euphrates.


There are two opinions about the etymology of this name. In popular belief the derivation is from the name of the Persian God هرمزHormoz (a variant of Ahura Mazda). Compare the Pillars of Herculesmarker at the entrance to the Mediterranean. Scholars, historians and linguists derive the name "Ormuz" from the local Persian word هورمغ Hur-mogh meaning datepalm. In the local dialects of Hurmoz and Minab this strait is still called Hurmogh and has the aforementioned meaning.

Events

Operation Praying Mantis

On 18 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 14 April mining of the USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58). U.S. forces sank two Iranian warships, Joshan and as many as six armed speedboats in the engagement.

The downing of Iran Air 655

On July 3, 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. There is still a lingering controversymarker about the event, a tragedy in aviation history.

Collision between USS Newport News and tanker Mogamigawa

On January 10, 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.

Tensions in 2008

2008 US-Iranian naval dispute

A series of naval stand-offs between Iranian speedboats and U.S. warships in the Strait of Hormuz occurred in December 2007 and January 2008. U.S. officials accused Iran of harassing and provoking their naval vessels; Iranian officials denied these allegations. On January 14, 2008, U.S. naval officials appeared to contradict the Pentagon version of the Jan. 16 event, in which U.S. officials said U.S. vessels were near to firing on approaching Iranian boats. The Navy's regional commander, Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff, said the Iranians had "neither anti-ship missiles nor torpedoes" and that he "wouldn't characterize the posture of the US 5th Fleet as afraid of these small boats".

Iranian threats

On June 29, 2008, the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Ali Mohammed Jafari, said that if Iran were attacked by Israel or the United States, it would seal off the Strait of Hormuz, to wreak havoc in oil markets. This statement followed other more ambiguous threats from Iran's oil minister and other government officials that a Western attack on Iran would result in turmoil in oil supply.

In response, Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff, commander of the U.S. 5th Fleet stationed in Bahrain across the Persian Gulf from Iran, warned that such an action by Iran would be considered an act of war, and that the U.S. would not allow Iran to effectively hold hostage nearly a third of the world's oil supply.

On July 8, 2008, Ali Shirazi, a mid-level clerical aide to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was quoted by the student news agency ISNA as saying to Revolutionary Guards, "The Zionist regime is pressuring White House officials to attack Iran. If they commit such a stupidity, Tel Aviv and U.S. shipping in the Persian Gulf will be Iran's first targets and they will be burned."

An 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 likely escalate the conflict. In a later issue, however, the journal published a response which questioned some key assumptions and suggested a much shorter timeline for re-opening.

Naval activity in 2008

In the last week of July 2008, in the Operation Brimstone, dozens of U.S. and foreign navy ships came to off the eastern coast in the U.S., to undergo joint exercises for possible military activity in the shallow waters off the coast of Iran.

As of August 11, 2008, more than 40 U.S. and allied ships reportedly were en route to the Straits of Hormuz. One U.S. carrier battle group from Japan would complement two more, which are already in the Persian Gulf, for a total of five battle groups, not counting submarines.

Collision between USS Hartford and USS New Orleans

On March 20, 2009, the USS Hartford collided with the USS New Orleans in the strait. The collision mildly injured 15 sailors aboard the Hartford and ruptured a fuel tank aboard the New Orleans, spilling 25,000 gallons of marine diesel fuel.


See also



References

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