Strait of Hormuz: At this strait hardly a path leads past
Iran is already threatened with a blockade and the US is calling for a military alliance to protect the strait: why is the Strait of Hormuz so important?
Stopped oil tankers, alleged acts of sabotage, blockade threat: The waters around the Strait of Hormuz have become the scene of the conflict with Iran. Now Iranian ships are said to have pushed a British oil tanker in the strait and the US is calling for an international military alliance to ensure the safety of shipping by sea.
In fact, the waters are important for both economic and political reasons. The strait between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman is regarded as the bottleneck of the worldwide oil trade. It connects the largest oil producers such as Saudi Arabia with the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. States can deliver oil to Asia, Europe and North America along the way. About one third of all seaborne oil shipments are shipped across the Strait of Hormuz. If tensions increase there or even a war between Iran and the United States, that would have immense impact on the energy market and thus also on the world economy.
Iran is aware of the importance of the strait. In the past, the country has often threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz. In April, a commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard recently announced a blockade should the US stop all Iran's oil exports. "As long as we can export our oil, Hormus remains open, if not, then there is no logic for it," it had said. The strait between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman is only about 50 kilometers wide. Even if the Iranian navy is not up to the USA in military terms, it would not be difficult for them to block a transit through maritime mines.
Tensions in the region had already increased in May. On 12 May, the Emirates reported acts of sabotage against four merchant ships off their coast. A month later, two oil tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman after passing the Strait of Hormuz. The US blamed the Revolutionary Guards for the incidents. Tehran denied any involvement. On June 20, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards then fired a US reconnaissance drone over the Strait of Hormuz. The incident brought the two countries to the brink of war, and US President Donald Trump stopped a retaliatory attack at the last minute.
Hardly alternative routes
The incidents in the region always affected the price of oil, at least in the short term. A further increase in tensions should therefore further increase the price of raw materials. Oil prices have only risen slightly in the US, due to sinking oil reserves: a barrel of North Sea Brent last cost around US $ 67 (about € 59). But because the straits are difficult to navigate and alternative routes for oil transport are limited, a blockade of the Strait of Hormuz would raise the price of oil significantly. German exports to the region would also be affected.
It is unclear how the fluctuating oil price will affect the price of fuel. The gasoline price at the gas station is not directly related to the price of oil. However, representatives of the mineral economy warned after the recent tensions already, when the oil price rises, also petrol and diesel became more expensive. As a rule, gasoline prices react with some delay to the oil price trend.
The US has argued that merchant ships and oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz will in future be escorted by the military. According to the plans, ships are to be accompanied by the respective navy of the country under whose flag they are traveling. The appeal was also addressed to Germany. Whether the Federal Government will participate is open. Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) recently referred to ongoing discussions. The foreign policy spokesman of the Union, Jürgen Hardt, however, affirmed that the freedom of international maritime routes is indispensable. Germany should also undertake monitoring tasks and "provide escort protection, if necessary", he demanded.
With material from AFP and dpa