Strait of Hormuz

Assessing the threat to oil flows through the Strait


Persian Gulf

Map showing a close-up of the geography around the Strait of Hormuz

The Strait contains eight major islands, seven of which are controlled by Iran. Iran and the United Arab Emirates disagree as to the ownership of the strategically located Abu Musa, Greater Tunb, and Lesser Tunb islands. Nonetheless, Iran has maintained a military presence on these islands since the 1970s. Additionally, Iran's navy has good access to open sea from bases at Bandar Abbas, Büshehr, and Chah Bahar. The de facto Iranian control of these islands certainly strengthens Iranian influence in the waters of the Strait.

Area Unsafe for Tankers

Source: Original map taken from the University of Texas, PCL Collection

Caption: Map that shows bathymetry of the Strait (Note: "Unsafe" for tankers indicates that the depth of the water in that area is less than 25 meters - a fully laden supertanker will have draft, or the height of the vessel below the ocean surface, of 20-25 meters)

The graphic to the right shows a high-level view of the different depths of the Strait. Note that, if necessary, fully laden VLCCs could safely navigate through most of the Strait - not just the TSS.



Source: Original map taken from the University of Texas, PCL Collection

Caption: Map showing both bathymetry and visibility estimates in the Strait

The Iranian gulf coast is generally not conducive to human habitation and development because of both topography and climate: generally arid and unbearably hot. Nevertheless, extensive oil operations in the south have brought some development to the area.

The weather is dry and hot year-round, with July and August being the hottest months. Dust, morning fog, and haze can make visibility in the Strait especially difficult. Dust haze is most common on the southern coast of Iran, especially during the dry summer months. Permanent off-shore winds bring both humidity and dust and, at their strongest, can pose hazards to terminal loading operations of oil tankers in the Gulf.