June 13, 2019 / 12:01 PM / 12 days ago

FACTBOX-Strait of Hormuz: the world's most important oil artery

June 14 (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.

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 programme

* 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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