Almost 59 million barrels per day of crude oil and petroleum products were transported on maritime routes in 2015, representing 61% of the world total, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Many of these products were transported around the Arabian Peninsula, through the Suez Canal, SUMED Pipeline, the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and the Strait of Hormuz chokepoints.
Chokepoints, or narrow sea channels, “are critical to global energy security,” according to the EIA. “The inability of oil to transit a major chokepoint, even temporarily, can lead to substantial supply delays and higher shipping costs, resulting in higher world energy prices.”
The Strait of Hormuz, which connects the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman in the Arabian Sea, is the most important chokepoint in the world, with an oil flow of 18.5 million barrels per day in 2016. In 2015, its daily flow of oil accounted for 30% of all seaborne-traded crude oil and other liquids. “More than 30% of global liquefied natural gas trade also transited the Strait of Hormuz in 2016,” according to the EIA.
The Suez Canal in Egypt connects the Red Sea and the Gulf of Suez with the Mediterranean Sea. In 2016, 3.9 million barrels per day of crude oil and refined products passed through the Suez Canal, according to data from the Suez Canal Authority. Northbound transit rose by about 300,000 barrels per day in 2016, but southbound shipments fell for the first time since 2009.
The 200-mile-long SUMED Pipeline transports oil through Egypt from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. The pipeline, with a total capacity of 2.34 million barrels per day, is the only alternate route to transport crude oil, from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, if ships can’t navigate through the Suez Canal.
The Bab el-Mandeb Strait, between the Horn of Africa and the Middle East, links the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. The amount of crude oil and refined petroleum products transported through the waterway rose to about 4.8 million barrels per day in 2016, from about 3.3 million barrels per day in 2011.