Chokepoints are narrow channels along widely used global sea routes, some so narrow that restrictions are placed on the size of vessel that can navigate through them. They are a critical part of global energy security due to the high volume of oil traded through their narrow straits.
In 2009, total world oil production amounted to approximately 84 million barrels per day (bbl/d), and about one-half was moved by tankers on fixed maritime routes. With the onset of the global economic downturn that began in mid-2008, world oil demand declined, and along with it the volumes of oil shipped to markets, both via pipelines and along maritime routes such as these chokepoints. By volume of oil transit, the Strait of Hormuz leading out of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Malacca linking the Indian and Pacific Oceans are two of the world’s most strategic chokepoints.
The international energy market is dependent upon reliable transport. 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 which can lead to disastrous oil spills.
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