A chokepoint refers to a point of natural congestion along two wider and important navigable passages. Maritime choke points are naturally narrow channels of shipping having high traffic because of their strategic locations.
Maritime chokepoints, or oil chokepoints, are congestive pathways in some of the world’s famous shipping routes. There are many such choke points around the world, however, a few of them are extremely famous for ships and thus face high international security conflicts and cross-border terrorism threats.
As maritime choke points are located at indispensable marine trade routes, in case of global security problems, avoiding these choke points has often been suggested as workable option. However since avoiding these maritime choke points of the world would contribute to a huge loss in the nature of oil freight shipping operations, majority of the oil shipping operations are still carried out by navigating through them.
Some of the famous maritime chokepoints around the world are:
- The Malaccan strait in the Indian Ocean
- The Gulf of Hormuz in the Middle-east
- The Suez Canal linking the Mediterranean and the Red Sea
- The Panama Canal linking the Atlantic with the Pacific Ocean
- The Strait of Bosporus (Turkish Strait) linking the Mediterranean Sea to the Black Sea
- The three Danish Straits linking the Baltic Sea with the North Sea
- The Strait of Bab el-Mandeb forming a gateway for vessels to pass through the Suez Canal, through the east coast of Africa
The above mentioned seven maritime choke points have gained immense ill-fame in the past and in present times, especially because of the heavy geo-political pressure surrounding them.
Maritime history recounts that various economic superpowers of the past effectively imposed naval troops to prevent passage of maritime traffic through these channels. In the present times it is feared that countries with hostile political environment may position their naval troops alongside these global choke points thus adding more vulnerability to an already fragile situation.
Alternatively, in choke point areas where political situation is stable there is also the threat of maritime piracy, hijacking, and other crimes. The strait of Bab el-Mandeb and the Suez Canal especially face a huge operational problem because of such pirating attacks.
In order to successfully stop this threat from continuing further, maritime bodies and leading maritime operators have tried to come up with alternate shipping routes. Alongside, it has also been proposed that key economic powers like United States and other European countries try to use their naval supremacy to ensure the safety of tanker vessels using these chokepoints. This tactic has also been suggested as a way to counter the hostile political tactics in certain choke points of the world.