Busiest straits in the world

What are the busiest straits in the world? Do ships always stop for a port call in or around these straits?

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The busiest straits in the world serve as crucial chokepoints for international shipping and trade. Some of the most prominent straits include:

  • The Strait of Malacca: Located between the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra, this strait is one of the busiest in the world. It is the main shipping channel between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean and carries a significant portion of the world’s trade, including oil shipments.

  • The Strait of Hormuz: This strait is located between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. It is a strategic and vital route for oil transportation, as a large percentage of the world’s oil supply passes through it.

  • The Suez Canal: Though not technically a strait, the Suez Canal is a crucial waterway that connects the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. It serves as a vital shortcut for ships traveling between Europe and Asia, saving time and fuel compared to navigating around the southern tip of Africa.

  • The Bosphorus Strait: This strait connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, and it’s a key route for shipping between Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean. Istanbul, Turkey, is situated along the Bosphorus, making it an important port city.

  • The English Channel: Located between England and France, the English Channel is a busy shipping lane connecting the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It also accommodates ferries transporting passengers and vehicles between the two countries.

Regarding port calls, it is not necessary for ships to always make a stop in or around these straits. Many vessels will simply transit through the strait without stopping, depending on their route and cargo. However, there are numerous ports located in proximity to these straits, which cater to ships needing to refuel, load or unload cargo, or make necessary repairs. Some ships may also make a port call for crew changes or to comply with regulations.

1. Strait of Hormuz:

  • It links the Persian Gulf (West) with the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea (southeast).
  • It contains the Islands of Qeshm, Hormuz and Hengam.
  • It is of crucial strategic and economic significance, particularly given that oil tankers bringing in cargo from several Persian Gulf ports must cross the strait.
  • OPEC members Saudi Arabia, Iran, the UAE, Kuwait and Iraq export most of the crude via the strait.
  • Qatar, the world’s biggest LNG exporter, sends almost all of its LNG through the strait.

2. Strait of Malacca:

  • It connects the Andaman Sea (Indian Ocean) and the South China Sea (Pacific Ocean)
  • It is the longest strait in the world, measuring roughly 800 kilometres, and it not only makes it easier for locals to travel about, but it also serves as a hub for trade, culture, ideas, and information between East and West.
  • The Strait of Malacca connects the Indian Ocean with the South China Maritime, making it the shortest sea route between China and India and one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.
  • The importance of this region has grown as a result of the worldwide shift in economic power from the West to the East as well as booming commerce, investments, and production in areas spanning the Indian and Pacific Ocean basins.

3. Bab al-Mandab:

  • The strait known as Bab al-Mandab is what divides the Arabian Peninsula from the Horn of Africa.
  • It connects the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden.
  • The strait, which is bordered by Yemen on one side and Djibouti and Eritrea on the other, is barely 29 km wide at its narrowest point.
  • It is a crucial strategic route for trade and commerce, with an estimated 4% of the world’s oil supply travelling through it.

4. Palk Strait:

  • It links Palk Bay in the southwest with the Bay of Bengal in the northeast.
  • The strait is less than 330 feet (100 metres) deep, 40 to 85 miles (64 to 137 km) long, and 64 to 137 km broad.
  • On the Sri Lankan side, it has several islands and receives various rivers, notably the Vaigai (India).
  • The Adam’s Bridge is a collection of sand shoals formed over time by sedimentation.
  • A calcareous foundation of dead reef and sand supports every island.
  • Part of the Gulf of Mannar between Rameswaram and Tuticorin, which includes 21 islands and the nearby shallow coastal waters, was designated as a Marine National Park in 1986 due to its great biodiversity of over 4,000 species of varied flora and wildlife.

5. Sunda Strait:

  • It connects the Indian Ocean to the Java Sea in the Pacific Ocean (south).
    Between the east Java and Sumatra islands is the Sunda Strait, or Selat Sunda in Indonesian. Its width ranges from 16 to 70 miles (26 to 110 kilometres).
  • An essential route linking eastern Asia and the Indian Ocean is the Sunda Strait.
  • This shallowness, very powerful tidal currents, sandbanks, and man-made obstacles like oil rigs off the Java coast make it infamously challenging to navigate.
  • Many big, contemporary ships utilise the Strait of Malacca instead of the strait due to its narrowness, shallowness, and lack of good mapping.

6. Mozambique Channel:

  • It is situated between the eastern island country of Madagascar and Mozambique on the continent of Africa (west).
  • The northern entrance is marked by the Comoro Archipelago, and the southern entry is marked by the islands of Bassas da India and Europa.
  • It receives all main Madagascar rivers and has the ports of Mahajanga (Majunga) and Toliary (TulĂ©ar) on the same coast, making it a crucial route for commerce in eastern Africa.
  • The mouth of the Zambezi River and the ports of Maputo (formerly Lourenço Marques), Moçambique, and Beira are located on the opposite shore.
  • The strait is traversed by the Mozambique Current.

7. Gibraltar Strait:

  • It is a waterway that runs between the southernmost point of Spain and the westernmost point of Africa, bridging the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Between Point Marroqu (Spain) and Point Cires, it is 36 miles (58 km) long and narrows to 8 miles (13 km) in width (Morocco).
  • Because it allows for seaborne transit for commerce between the Atlantic and Mediterranean, as well as via the Suez Canal into the Indian Ocean and beyond, it is one of the most important worldwide sea lanes.
  • The Strait is the busiest shipping waterway in the world after the English Channel.

8. Bosphorus strait and Dardanelles strait:

  • The Bosphorus sometimes referred to as the Strait of Istanbul, is a narrow, naturally occurring waterway that connects northwest Turkey to the rest of the world.
  • The Bosporus links the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara and, indirectly, to the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas via the Dardanelles.
  • It is the narrowest strait in the world that is used for international shipping.
  • The Dardanelles, a strait that separates Asian Turkey from European Turkey, is a narrow, naturally occurring, and globally significant waterway that is located in northwest Turkey.
  • The Sea of Marmara is linked to the Aegean, Mediterranean, and, indirectly through the Bosphorus, the Black Sea by the Dardanelles.

To give some perspective, these are the number of vessels passing through the busiest straits in the world:

  1. Strait of Malacca - 84,000 vessels
  2. Dover Strait - 400-500 vessels per day
  3. Singapore Strait - 130,000 vessels
  4. Taiwan Strait - 62,000 vessels
  5. Bosporus Strait - 48,000 vessels
  6. Strait of Hormuz - 17 million barrels of oil per day
  7. Strait of Gibraltar - 100,000 vessels per year
  8. Bab-el-Mandeb Strait - 21,000 vessels per year
  9. Strait of Juan de Fuca - 8,000 vessels per year
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