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To grasp fully the crisis in the Strait of Hormuz, you need a clear picture of the chaotic and volatile scene in what is one of the world's busiest shipping channels.
Up to 100 oil tankers pass through this narrow waterway every day, transporting close to 20 million barrels of oil – and that is only the activity we can most easily detect in these waters.
Hundreds - Boats - Ships - Seas - Channel
Hundreds of other boats and ships ply the same seas, which are not much wider than the English Channel between Dover and Boulogne, about 21 nautical miles.
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Royal - Navy - Nickname - Strait - Charlie
The Royal Navy's nickname for the strait is 'Chokepoint Charlie'. It links the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman, a tight hairpin bend with Iran to the north and the headland of Oman and the United Arab Emirates to the south.
Larger vessels are obliged to transmit their position, but those rules do not apply to the numerous smaller craft.
Years - RAF - Intelligence - Service - Seas
I spent my formative years in the RAF before founding a maritime intelligence service. The high seas, I have come to learn, are not like the skies, where all aircraft must keep to a flight plan and comply with air traffic control.
Instead, ships such as fishing vessels and pleasure boats do not have to signal their identity or their plans – which makes the Navy's job of spotting Iran's military patrol boats extremely difficult.
Warship - Picture - Activity - Strait - Hormuz
It is, therefore, simply impossible for one British warship to have a full and detailed picture of all the activity in the Strait of Hormuz. You might as well ask a single police car to track every vehicle on a motorway.
Iran knows this. It has been building up its military strength in the strait for decades, aimed at countering the West's navies. The crisis in the Strait of Hormuz is extremely volatile. Tehran has...
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