At its narrowest, the Strait of Hormuz is about the same width as the Strait of Dover. It is just as busy as the English Channel, too, and of similar strategic economic importance. Around a fifth of the world’s oil passes through this passage of water off the Iranian coast. The Strait of Hormuz, however, is also a far more hazardous environment than the waters between Dover and Calais.
The royal navy successfully managed to see off three Iranian Revolutionary Guard speed boats attacking a British oil tanker, a remarkable achievement. The guards, a sort of semi-autonomous, quasi-paramilitary arm of the Iranian armed forces, have perfected the technique of fast “swarming” much larger vessels, including American naval vessels, in order to overwhelm their defences and capture or mine them.
That HMS Montrose managed to protect the BP-chartered tanker British Heritage was not just a relief to those on board; it also avoided a further escalation in hostilities between the west and Iran in these waters, and the start in earnest of a new “tanker war”.
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