Sunday 19 Aug 2018 | 10:10 | SYDNEY
Sunday 19 Aug 2018 | 10:10 | SYDNEY

Straits of Hormuz: Terror and tankers


Rodger Shanahan


30 July 2010 15:36

Attacks on shipping in the strategic Straits of Hormuz in the event of greatly increased tensions with Iran is one of the future worst-case scenarios that military (and economic) planners grapple with. And for a period this week it appeared that a Japanese oil tanker en route from the UAE to Japan may have been the first victim of an attack in the region since the tanker wars.

Accusations have ranged from an AQ-inspired or rogue Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps-Navy attack to a freak wave caused by an underwater tremor. But as the first photos emerged of a dented but not penetrated hull the mystery only deepened and an attack (particularly with no follow-up) appears to have become less likely.

The days and weeks ahead will tell us more about exactly what happened, but it once again highlights the sensitivity of the Straits of Hormuz, through which 20% of global oil production passes.

As an aside, there are a number of think tanks looking at the implications to world economies of conflict in the Straits, and while most agree that Iran's ability to close the Straits is limited to a few days, if at all, there has been some interesting work* done on the increased insurance premiums (which would be passed on to the consumer) in the event of conflict in the Gulf (based largely on the medium intensity tanker wars mentioned previously). It makes the likely petrol price hike appear very manageable.

Photo by Flickr user franscaspers, used under a Creative Commons license.

* Correct link now in place.