Chokepoints are narrow channels along widely used global sea routes, some so narrow that restrictions are placed on the size of the vessel that can navigate through them. They are a critical part of global energy security due to the high volume of oil traded though their narrow straits.
In 2011, total world oil production amounted to approximately 87 million barrels per day (bbl/d), and over one-half was moved by tankers on fixed maritime routes. By volume of oil transit, the Strait of Hormuz, leading out the Persian Gulf, and the Strait of Malacca, linking the Indian and Pacific Oceans, are two of the world’s most strategic chokepoints.
The global oil market is very vulnerable to potential supply disruptions, given that reserves are heavily concentrated among a handful of major producers and consuming centers are often far from producing basins. The blockage of a chokepoint, even temporarily, can lead to substantial increases in total energy costs. In addition, chokepoints leave oil tankers vulnerable to theft from pirates, terrorist attacks and political unrest in the form of wars or hostilities as well as shipping accidents that can lead to disastrous oil spills. Disruptions to shipments would affect oil prices and add thousands of miles of transit in an alternative direction, if even available.
The 7 Straits serving as major trade routes for global oil transportation are: Hormuz, Malacca, Suez Canal/SUMED Pipeline, Bab el-Mandeb, Bosphorus/Turkish Straits, Panama Canal and Danish straits.