IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


7th July, 2023 Geography

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Iran attempts to seize two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz.


  • In the early hours of Wednesday, Iran made an attempt to seize two oil tankers near the strategically significant Strait of Hormuz.
  • The US Navy reported that one of the tankers was fired upon by Iranian naval vessels but retreated after the US Navy's response.
  • Tensions between Iran and the United States have been escalating since the US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Incident Details

  • Two oil tankers were targeted by Iranian naval vessels in the Gulf of Oman and off the coast of Muscat, Oman's capital.
  • The first incident involved the TRF Moss, a Marshall Islands-flagged tanker, approached by an Iranian naval vessel.
  • The second incident occurred three hours later with the Richmond Voyager, a Bahamian-flagged tanker, being ordered to stop by an Iranian naval vessel.

US Navy Response

  • The US Navy promptly responded to both incidents.
  • The USS McFaul, a guided-missile destroyer, along with an MQ-9 Reaper drone and a P-8 Poseidon patrol plane, were deployed in response.
  • The destroyer approached the tankers at maximum speed to ensure their safety.

Iranian Naval Provocations

  • Iran has a history of seizing and harassing commercial vessels in the region.
  • At least five commercial vessels have been seized by Iran in the past two years, with over a dozen others harassed.
  • Most incidents occur in and around the Strait of Hormuz, a critical passage for global crude oil transportation.

Motives behind Iranian Actions

  • Iran has used the seizure of commercial vessels as a bargaining tool in negotiations with the West.
  • Previous incidents, such as the seizure of a US-bound oil tanker in April, have been justified by Iran as responses to collisions or other claims without providing evidence.

About Strait of Hormuz

  • The Strait of Hormuz is a narrow waterway located between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.
  • It serves as a crucial maritime choke point, connecting the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea.

Geographic Location

  • The strait is situated at the entrance of the Persian Gulf, bordered by Iran to the north and the United Arab Emirates and Oman to the south.

Strategic Importance

  • Approximately 20% of the world's crude oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz, making it one of the most important shipping lanes globally.
  • The strait is a key conduit for oil exports from major oil-producing countries in the Persian Gulf, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, and the UAE.
  • Any disruption or closure of the strait could have a significant impact on global energy markets, leading to increased oil prices and potential supply shortages.

Width and Length

  • The strait is approximately 33 nautical miles wide at its narrowest point.
  • It stretches for about 96 nautical miles, extending from the Musandam Peninsula in Oman to the Iranian coast.

Traffic Volume

  • The strait witnesses heavy maritime traffic with an estimated 17 million barrels of oil passing through it each day.
  • Besides oil tankers, the strait accommodates various vessel types, including container ships, cargo vessels, and naval warships.

International Law and Jurisdiction

  • The Strait of Hormuz is considered international waters, allowing vessels from different nations to navigate through it.
  • Ownership and jurisdictional disputes between Iran and neighboring countries have occasionally emerged, leading to tensions in the region.

Security Concerns

  • The strait has been a site of regional tensions, including naval confrontations and incidents between Iran and international forces.
  • Piracy and armed robbery against vessels have been reported in the region, requiring international naval patrols and security measures.

Geopolitical Significance

  • The strait's location influences geopolitical dynamics, as it provides leverage for regional powers and influences their relationships with international actors.
  • Various countries maintain a military presence in the area to protect their interests and ensure the security of maritime traffic.

Environmental Considerations

  • The strait is home to diverse marine life and delicate ecosystems, making it important to balance maritime activities with environmental preservation efforts.
  • The high volume of oil tanker traffic raises concerns about potential oil spills, which could have severe environmental consequences.


Q) Discuss the strategic importance of the Strait of Hormuz and its implications for global energy security. (150 words)