(Reuters) - Armed pirates seized the Irene SL, a U.S.-bound oil tanker, off Oman on Wednesday, carrying around $200 million worth of crude, in one of the biggest raids in the area to date, escalating the threat to vital shipping lanes.
Here are some details about shipping around the region:
— A narrow bend of water separating Oman and Iran. It connects the biggest Gulf oil producers, such as Saudi Arabia, with the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea.
— At its narrowest point, the strait is only 21 miles across and consists of 2-mile (3-km) wide navigable channels for inbound and outbound shipping and a 2-mile-wide buffer zone.
— Flows through the Strait in 2009 were roughly 33 percent of all seaborne traded oil (40 percent in 2008), or 17 percent of oil traded worldwide, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
— Hormuz is the world’s most important oil chokepoint due to its daily oil flow of 17.0 million barrels in 2010. On average, 13 crude oil tankers per day passed eastbound through the Strait in 2009.
— Up to 30,000 ships pass through the Gulf of Aden each year, heading to and from the Suez Canal.
— Millions of tones of crude oil, petroleum products, gas and dry commodities such as grains, iron ore and coal, as well as containerized goods from Hi-Fis to toys are ferried through the Gulf of Aden and Suez Canal every month.
— The Strait of Bab el-Mandab is a chokepoint between the Horn of Africa and the Middle East, and a strategic link between the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean. It is located between Yemen, Djibouti, and Eritrea, and connects the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea.
— Exports from the Gulf and Asia to the West must pass through Bab el-Mandab before entering the Suez Canal.
— The 192-km (120-mile) Suez Canal is the quickest sea route between Asia and Europe.
— The canal is one of seven geographic choke points identified by the U.S-based Energy Information Administration (EIA). These narrow channels are critically important to the world oil trade and are also susceptible to blockages or pirate attacks.
— About 8 percent of the world seaborne trade passed through the Suez Canal in 2009.
— Crude oil and refined products volume accounted for around 15 percent of Suez cargoes in 2009, measured by tonnage. Over 50 percent of total tonnage was accounted for by container shipping including finished goods from electronics to toys.