Sea Transportation: December 11, 2002


Although oil tankers are vulnerable to attack, as was shown when a 300,000 ton French tanker was attacked off Yemen in October, the greatest vulnerability is at the various choke points around the world. These can be mined, or interdicted with anti-ship missiles. The key choke points (with MBD, or millions of barrels of oil per day moved through them) are; Strait of Hormuz (entrance to the Persian Gulf, 13 MBD), Strait of Malacca ((between Malaysia and Indonesia, 10 MBD), Suez Canal (and the oil pipeline the runs along it, 3.8 MBD), Bab el-Mandab (entrance to the Red Sea, 3.3 MBD), Bosporus/Turkish Straits (2 MBD). The most critical of these are the Strait of Hormuz, with a shipping channel only six kilometers wide, and the and the Strait of Malacca, with a channel only 2.5 kilometers wide. While both of these could be mined, the Strait of Hormuz is also vulnerable to Iranian anti-ship missiles. The most critical choke point, however is the Strait of Malacca, which provides passage to over 50,000 ships a year. That's about one ship (tanker or cargo) every ten minutes. Detouring around the Strait of Malacca would cost billions of dollars (in extra shipping costs) and, initially, cause serious disruptions in industries world wide (and particularly in Japan, China, Taiwan and South Korea.) 


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