Strait of Hormuz (/hɔːrˈmuːz/ Persian: تنگه هرمز
Tangeye Hormoz listen (help·info)) is a strait between the
Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. It provides the only sea passage
Persian Gulf to the open ocean and is one of the world's most
strategically important choke points. On the north coast lies Iran,
and on the south coast the
United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates and Musandam, an
exclave of Oman. At its narrowest, the strait has a width of 29
nautical miles (54 km).
About 20% of the world's petroleum (about 35% of the petroleum traded
by sea) passes through the strait, making it a highly important
strategic location for international trade.
3 Traffic statistics
4.1 Operation Praying Mantis
4.2 Downing of
Iran Air 655
4.3 Collision between USS Newport News and tanker Mogamigawa
4.4 Tensions in 2008
4.4.1 2008 U.S.–Iranian naval dispute
4.4.2 Iranian defence policy
4.4.3 Naval activity in 2008
4.5 Collision between USS Hartford and USS New Orleans
Iran tensions in 2011–2012
4.7 2015 seizure of MV
5 Ability of
Iran to hinder shipping
6 Alternative shipping routes
7 See also
10 Further reading
11 External links
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:
"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."
— Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, Chapter 35
In the 10th–17th centuries AD, the Kingdom of Ormus, which seems to
have given the strait its name, was located here. Scholars, historians
and linguists derive the name "Ormuz" from the local Persian word
هورمغ Hur-mogh meaning date palm.[dubious – discuss] In the
local dialects of Hurmoz and
Minab this strait is still called Hurmogh
and has the aforementioned meaning. The resemblance
of this word with the name of the Persian god هرمز Hormoz (a
variant of Ahura Mazda) has resulted in the popular belief[citation
needed][neutrality is disputed] that these words are related.
To reduce the risk of collision, ships moving through the Strait
Traffic Separation Scheme
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
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
In April 1959
Iran altered the legal status of the strait by expanding
its territorial sea to 12-nautical-mile (22 km) and declaring
that it would recognize only transit by innocent passage through the
newly expanded area. In July 1972,
Oman expanded its territorial
sea to 12 nm by decree. Thus, by mid-1972, the
Hormuz was completely “closed” by the combined territorial waters
Iran and Oman. During the 1970s, neither
Oman attempted to
impede the passage of warships through the strait, but in the 1980s,
both countries asserted claims that were different with customary
(old) law. Upon ratifying
UNCLOS in August 1989,
declarations confirming its 1981 royal decree that only innocent
passage is permitted through its territorial sea. The declarations
further asserted that prior permission was required before foreign
warships could pass through Omani territorial waters. Upon signing
the convention in December 1982,
Iran entered a declaration stating
“that only states parties to the Law of the Sea Convention shall be
entitled to benefit from the contractual rights created therein”,
including “the right of transit passage through straits used for
international navigation”. In May 1993,
Iran enacted a comprehensive
law on maritime areas, several provisions of which conflict with
UNCLOS provisions, including a requirement that warships, submarines,
and nuclear-powered ships obtain permission before exercising innocent
passage through Iran’s territorial waters.The United States does not
recognize any of the claims by
Iran and has contested each of
Oman has a radar site Link Quality Indicator (LQI) to monitor the TSS
Strait of Hormuz. This site is on a small island on the peak of
Musandam Governorate.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2011, an
average of 14 tankers per day passed out of the
Persian Gulf through
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.
A 2007 report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies
also stated that 17 million barrels passed out of the Persian Gulf
daily, but that oil flows through the
Strait accounted for roughly 40%
of all world-traded oil.
Operation Praying Mantis
Main article: 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., was launched in retaliation for the USS Samuel B.
Roberts striking a mine laid in the channel by
Iran on 14 April. U.S.
forces sank one frigate, one gunboat, and up to six armed speedboats,
as well as seriously damaging a second frigate.
Iran Air 655
Iran Air Flight 655
On 3 July 1988, 290 people were killed when an
Iran Air Airbus A300
was shot down over the strait by the
United States Navy
United States Navy guided missile
cruiser USS Vincennes when it was identified as a jet fighter. Flight
655 had taken off from a joint Iranian Military/Civilian airfield and
the IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) signals being received had two
ID codes, one for a civilian aircraft and one for a fighter. Leading
some experts to speculate that at least one and possibly more fighter
aircraft were hiding in flight 655's "radar shadow". Such a tactic is
quite effective against older radar systems but much less so against
the Spy 1 radar which CG-49 was equipped with. The shoot-down is still
clouded in misinformation and controversy even decades later.
Collision between USS Newport News and tanker Mogamigawa
On 8 January 2007, the nuclear submarine USS Newport News, traveling
submerged, struck MV Mogamigawa, a 300,000-ton Japanese-flagged
very large crude tanker, south of the strait. There were no
injuries, and no oil leaked from the tanker.
Tensions in 2008
2008 U.S.–Iranian naval dispute
Main article: 2008 U.S.–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, but Iranian officials denied the allegations. On 14
January 2008, U.S. Navy officials appeared to contradict the Pentagon
version of the 16 January event, in which the Pentagon had reported
that U.S. vessels had almost fired on approaching Iranian boats. The
Navy's regional commander, Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff, said the
Iranians had "neither anti-ship missiles nor torpedoes" and he
"wouldn't characterize the posture of the US 5th Fleet as afraid of
these small boats".
Iranian defence policy
On 29 June 2008, the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Mohammad
Ali Jafari, said that if either
Israel or the United States attacked
Iran, it would seal off the
Strait of Hormuz to wreak havoc in the oil
markets. This followed more ambiguous threats from Iran's oil minister
and other government officials that an attack on
Iran would result in
turmoil in the world's oil supply.
Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff, commander of the
U.S. 5th Fleet
U.S. 5th Fleet stationed
in Bahrain across the
Persian Gulf from Iran, warned that such Iranian
action would be considered an act of war, and the U.S. would not allow
Iran to hold hostage nearly a third of the world's oil supply.
On 8 July 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 telling the 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."
Naval activity in 2008
In the last week of July 2008, in the Operation Brimstone, dozens
of U.S. and foreign naval ships came to undergo joint exercises for
possible military activity in the shallow waters off the coast of
As of 11 August 2008, more than 40 U.S. and allied ships reportedly
were en route to the
Strait of Hormuz. One U.S. carrier battle group
from Japan would complement the two which are already in the Persian
Gulf, for a total of five battle groups, not including the
Collision between USS Hartford and USS New Orleans
Main article: USS Hartford and USS New Orleans collision
Wikinews has related news: Two US Navy vessels collide in the Strait
of Hormuz; 15 lightly injured
On 20 March 2009,
United States Navy
United States Navy Los Angeles-class submarine
USS Hartford collided with the San Antonio-class amphibious
transport dock USS New Orleans in the strait. The collision,
which slightly injured 15 sailors aboard Hartford, ruptured a fuel
tank aboard New Orleans, spilling 25,000 US gallons (95 m3) of
marine diesel fuel.
Iran tensions in 2011–2012
Main article: 2011–12
Strait of Hormuz dispute
This article needs to be updated. Please update this article to
reflect recent events or newly available information. (September 2017)
On 27 December 2011, Iranian Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi
threatened to cut off oil supply from the
Strait of Hormuz should
economic sanctions limit, or cut off, Iranian oil exports. A U.S.
Fifth Fleet spokeswoman said in response that the Fleet was "always
ready to counter malevolent actions", whilst Admiral Habibollah
Sayyari of the Iranian navy claimed that cutting off oil shipments
would be "easy". Despite an initial 2% rise in oil prices, oil
markets ultimately did not react significantly to the Iranian threat,
with oil analyst Thorbjoern Bak Jensen of Global Risk Management
concluding that "they cannot stop the flow for a longer period due to
the amount of U.S. hardware in the area".
The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter transits the
Hormuz in May 2012. Porter is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet
On 3 January 2012,
Iran threatened to take action if the U.S. Navy
moves an aircraft carrier back into the Persian Gulf. Iranian Army
Ataollah Salehi said the United States had moved an aircraft
carrier out of the Gulf because of Iran's naval exercises, and Iran
would take action if the ship returned. "
Iran will not repeat its
warning...the enemy's carrier has been moved to the Gulf of Oman
because of our drill. I recommend and emphasize to the American
carrier not to return to the Persian Gulf", he said.
The U.S. Navy spokesman Commander Bill Speaks quickly responded that
deployment of U.S. military assets would continue as has been the
custom stating: "The U.S. Navy operates under international maritime
conventions to maintain a constant state of high vigilance in order to
ensure the continued, safe flow of maritime traffic in waterways
critical to global commerce."
While earlier statements from
Iran had little effect on global oil
markets, coupled with the new sanctions, these comments from
driving crude futures higher, up over 4%. Pressure on
prices reflect a combination of uncertainty driven further by China's
recent response – reducing oil January 2012 purchases from
50% compared to those made in 2011.
The U.S. led sanctions may be "beginning to bite" as Iranian currency
has recently lost some 12% of its value. Further pressure on Iranian
currency was added by French Foreign Minister
Alain Juppé who was
quoted as calling for more "strict sanctions" and urged EU countries
to follow the US in freezing Iranian central bank assets and imposing
an embargo on oil exports.
On 7 January 2012, the British government announced that it would be
Type 45 destroyer
Type 45 destroyer HMS Daring to the Persian Gulf.
Daring, which is the lead ship of her class is one of the "most
advanced warships" in the world, and will undertake its first mission
in the Persian Gulf. The British Government however have said that
this move has been long-planned, as Daring will replace another
Armilla patrol frigate.
On 9 January 2012, Iranian Defense Minister
Ahmad Vahidi denied that
Iran had ever claimed that it would close the
Strait of Hormuz, saying
that "the Islamic Republic of
Iran is the most important provider of
security in the strait... if one threatens the security of the Persian
Gulf, then all are threatened."
The Iranian Foreign Ministry confirmed on 16 January 2012 that it has
received a letter from the United States concerning the
Hormuz, "via three different channels." Authorities were considering
whether to reply, although the contents of the letter were not
divulged. The United States had previously announced its intention
Iran that closing the
Strait of Hormuz is a "red line" that
would provoke an American response. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said this past weekend that the
United States would "take action and re-open the strait,” which
could be accomplished only by military means, including minesweepers,
warship escorts and potentially airstrikes. Defense Secretary Leon E.
Panetta told troops in
Texas that the United States would not tolerate
Iran's closing of the strait. Nevertheless,
Iran continued to discuss
the impact of shutting the
Strait on world oil markets, saying that
any disruption of supply would cause a shock to markets that "no
country" could manage.
By 23 January, a flotilla had been established by countries opposing
Iran's threats to close the Hormuz Strait. These ships operated in
Persian Gulf and
Arabian Sea off the coast of Iran. The flotilla
included three American aircraft carriers (the USS Carl Vinson,
the USS Enterprise and USS Abraham Lincoln) and three
destroyers (USS Momsen, USS Sterett, USS Halsey), seven
British warships, including the destroyer HMS Daring and a number
of Type 23 frigates (HMS Westminster, HMS Argyll,
HMS Somerset and HMS St Albans), and a French warship, the
frigate La Motte-Picquet .
On 24 January, tensions rose further after the
European Union imposed
sanctions on Iranian oil. A senior member of Iran's parliament said
that the Islamic Republic would close the entry point to the Gulf if
new sanctions block its oil exports. "If any disruption happens
regarding the sale of Iranian oil, the
Strait of Hormuz will
definitely be closed," Mohammad Kossari, deputy head of parliament's
foreign affairs and national security committee, told the
semi-official Fars News Agency.
2015 seizure of MV
Maersk § Business with Iran
On April 28, 2015, IRGCN patrol boats contacted the Marshall
Islands-flagged container ship
Maersk Tigris, which was westbound
through the strait, and directed the ship to proceed further into
Iranian territorial waters, according to a spokesman for the U.S.
Defense Department. When the ship's master declined, one of the
Iranian craft fired shots across the bridge of
Maersk Tigris. The
master complied and proceeded into Iranian waters near Larak Island.
The US Navy sent aircraft and a destroyer, USS Farragut, to monitor
Maersk says they have agreed to pay an Iranian company $163,000 over a
dispute about 10 container boxes transported to Dubai in 2005. The
court ruling allegedly ordered a fine of $3.6 million.
Iran to hinder shipping
See also: Military of Iran
Millennium Challenge 2002
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
close the strait. The assumptions and results were controversial.
A 2008 article in
International Security contended that
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.
In a later issue, however, the journal published a response which
questioned some key assumptions and suggested a much shorter timeline
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.
Captain John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, was quoted in a December
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
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."
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
Saudi Arabia to a
Red Sea port. It will have a
capacity of 1.65 million barrels per day.
In July 2012, the
UAE began using the new Habshan–
pipeline from the
Habshan fields in
Abu Dhabi to the
terminal on the Gulf of Oman, effectively bypassing the
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.
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
Persian 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."
Abu Musa island
Kingdom of Hormuz
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to
Strait of Hormuz.
Strait of Hormuz" by the Robert Strauss Center: background on
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1580-pixel-wide excerpt from "
Strait of Hormuz – U.K. Admiralty
"How Great a Concern? Iranian Threats to Close the
Strait of Hormuz":
Briefly describes offense/defense balance in the
Strait and links to
articles in the journal, International Security; offers a map of the
Strait and surrounding region
"Transit Passage Rights in the
Strait of Hormuz and Iran’s Threats
to Block the Passage of Oil Tankers": The American Society of
Strait of Hormuz:
Counties and cities
Bandar Abbas County
Bandar Lengeh County
Caravanserai of Bastak
Castle of Aamaj
Castle of Siba
Dariush Grand Hotel
Fort of Our Lady of the Conception
Geno Biosphere Reserve
Hara forests of Qeshm
Hindu Temple, Bandar Abbas
The Historic Bath of Siba
Khe Aab Mountain
Lashtan Castle, Bandar Lengeh
Portuguese Castle, Qeshm Island
List of cities, towns and villages in Hormozgan Province
Greater and Lesser Tunbs
Strait of Hormuz
Energy in Iran
Energy subsidies reform plan
National Iranian Oil Company
National Iranian South Oil Company
Iranian Offshore Oil Company
Iranian Central Oil Fields Company
Anglo-Persian Oil Company
Gas Exporting Countries Forum
National Iranian Gas Company
Natural gas reserves
South Pars/North Dome Gas-Condensate field
2007 Gasoline Rationing Plan
National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution Company
Asaluyeh industrial corridor
Special industrial economic zones
Atomic Energy Organization
Trump and JCPOA
Iran Heavy Diesel Manufacturing Company
Dams and reservoirs
Foreign direct investment
Ministry of Energy
Ministry of Petroleum
Oil Stabilization Fund and National Development Fund
Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action
Strait of Hormuz
National Iranian Tanker Company
United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates relations
Ambassadors of Iran
Ambassadors of the United Arab Emirates
Embassy of Iran, Abu Dhabi
Consulate-General of Iran, Dubai
Iranian Business Council - Dubai
Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs
Strait of Hormuz
Iranian Club, Dubai
Iranians in the United Arab Emira