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The Persian Gulf is at its most dangerous since the Iraq War, according to insurance markets

A flaming oil tanker in the sea of Oman.
An oil tanker flamed in the sea of Oman, following reported attacks on two ships in the Persian gulf.
By Max de Haldevang
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

One of the world’s most important oil shipping routes has hit its most dangerous level since 2005, due to growing tensions between Iran and its American and Saudi rivals, according to insurance markets.

Today’s unexplained explosions on two commercial oil tankers in the Persian Gulf were the latest in a series of what appear to be attacks on ships in the Strait of Hormuz. About 16.5 million barrels of oil pass through the bottleneck south of Oman every day—a crucial chunk of the roughly 100 million barrels the world consumes per day.

Lloyds of London, hub of the world’s insurance markets, last month included the entire Persian Gulf in its “listed areas”—the regions where shipping is at its riskiest. The last time the whole of the Persian Gulf was listed was in 2005, during the Iraq war.

Global leaders have called for calm in the region, as hawks in Washington ratchet up tensions. Last month, British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident with an escalation that is unintended on either side.” Washington has pointed the finger at Iran for previous attacks, but has never offered any evidence. Tehran has always denied responsibility.

Crews abandoned both the tankers, with the US and Iran both claiming credit for rescue operations.

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