(Reuters) – Attacks on two tankers on Thursday forced the evacuation of more than 40 sailors south of the Strait of Hormuz, a vital gateway for the world’s oil industry.

FILE PHOTO: A tugboat moves cargo towards the Strait of Hormuz off the coast of Musandam province, Oman, July 20, 2018. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed/File Photo – RC1A66753840

Below are details about the Strait:

WHAT IS THE STRAIT OF HORMUZ?

**The strait lies between Oman and Iran

**It links the Gulf north of it with the Gulf of Oman to the south and the Arabian Sea beyond

**It is 21 miles (33 km) wide at its narrowest point, with the shipping lane just two miles (three km) wide in either direction

**The UAE and Saudi Arabia have sought to find other routes to bypass the Strait, including building more oil pipelines

WHY DOES IT MATTER?

**Almost a fifth of the world’s oil passes through the Strait – some 17.4 million barrels per day (bpd) versus consumption of about 100 million bpd in 2018, data from analytics firm Vortexa showed

**OPEC members Saudi Arabia, Iran, the UAE, Kuwait and Iraq export most of their crude via the Strait

**Qatar, the world’s biggest liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter, sends almost all of its LNG through the Strait

POLITICAL TENSIONS

**The United States has imposed sanctions on Iran aimed at halting its oil exports

**Iran has threatened to disrupt oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz if the United States tries to strangle its economy

**The U.S. Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, is tasked with protecting commercial shipping in the area

MAJOR PAST INCIDENTS

**During the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, the two sides sought to disrupt each other’s oil exports in what was known as the Tanker War

**In July 1988, the U.S. warship Vincennes shot down an Iranian airliner, killing all 290 aboard, in what Washington said was an accident and Tehran said was a deliberate attack

**In early 2008, the United States said Iranian vessels threatened three U.S. Navy ships in the Strait

**In July 2010, Japanese oil tanker M Star was attacked in the Strait by a militant group called Abdullah Azzam Brigades linked to al Qaeda claiming responsibility

**In January 2012, Iran threatened to block the Strait in retaliation for U.S. and European sanctions that targeted its oil revenue in an attempt to stop Tehran’s nuclear program

**In May 2015, Iranian ships seized a container ship in the Strait and fired shots at a Singapore-flagged tanker which it said damaged an Iranian oil platform

**In July 2018, President Hassan Rouhani hinted Iran could disrupt oil trade through the Strait in response to U.S. calls to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero

**In May 2019, four vessels – including two Saudi oil tankers – were attacked off the UAE coast near Fujairah, one of the world’s largest bunkering hubs, just outside the Strait of Hormuz

Sources: Reuters/Refinitiv/Energy Information Administration

Reporting by Ahmad Ghaddar; editing by Jason Neely



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