In recent weeks the tensions in the Strait of Hormuz has been the highest in years [1], since Iran does not recognize any of the water in the Strait of Hormuz as being International Water, and given their seizing of a UK tanker in a retaliatory measure (said to have been done in Omani waters [2]), and their vow "to secure" the Strait [3], subsequently, US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy John Rood said the following at the Aspen Security Forum [4]:

We are starting a concept called Sentinel in which we will have a series of countries engaged to preserve the free and open passage of commerce in the Strait of Hormuz and in the Persian Gulf

In practice the Sentinel seems to be the UK Navy joining [5] the US Navy in patrolling and guarding the coastal waters of Kumzar, Oman (before this, US Navy did not intervene in the Iranian seizure of the UK tanker), with permission from Oman.

Given that Iran currently has mines in the Strait [6], the conclusion of this PBS cited [7] study [8] "from independent analysts":

If Iran managed to lay even a relatively small number of these mines in the strait, the United States certainly would act to clear the area. But the experience of past mine-warfare campaigns suggests that it could take many weeks, even months, to restore the full flow of commerce, and more time still for the oil markets to be convinced that stability had returned.

and the following arguments/quotes from the video I linked to in my 7th reference:

  • 7:17 Narrator intro:

    in a real world situation the US would not allow the Iranians to get so far as to place mines in the water, it might seek to destroy Iranian mine laying ships in the first place according to Scott Truver

    • Scott Truver, Navy consultant:
      • 7:30:

        The best mines countermeasures in the world are those that prevent the weapons from getting to the water in the first place, once a mine is in the water it's very hard to detect.

      • 7:54

        We do consider it an act of war. If they persisted I think we would take them out.

  • 6:18 Narrator intro:

    But these types of so called maritime security operations could easily morph into full blown war, according to Alireza Nadar of the Rand Corporation.

    • Alireza Nadar, Rand Corporation:
      • 6:28

        There's high potential for escalation between the United States and Iran. any US or international ships clearing those mines would be the target of Iranian anti-ship cruise missiles, so the US would potentially have to target these missiles but to do so then the US has to go after Iran's air defense. so then you see this escalation ladder ... we basically risk a full Iranian reaction

You can see how the current situation with current high tensions can easily escalate to full blown war, a solution I thought of, that would prevent this possibility, is for ships to avoid the mine infested Strait of Hormuz by sailing in Oman's coastal waters, which is what they're doing now, with the protection of the UK's and the US Navy.

Would a new canal south of Kumzar, Oman (that would require excavating 225mx225m 75m high peak with the shape of a triangular prism + 25m under water) with ships using it (in place of the 2 miles wide 2 shipping lanes that are in the coastal water of Oman in the Strait, where the UK's and US Navy are currently guarding) to remain in Oman's coastal waters eliminate the need of the costly and escalation prone freedom of navigation protection in the 25 mile wide Strait of Hormuz?

Wouldn't the mining of coastal waters (that you recognize) of a country certainly and widely internationally be considered an act of war?

current shipping lanes of the Strait of Hormuz and the proposed Kumzar Canal with their width

P.S: I tried writing clearly while being concise, please feel free to edit.

  • 2
    You've got 2 different questions here: 1) Would the canal help, and 2) Would mining costal waters be an act of war? You should focus on one – my opinion would be the first, since it seems to be what the rest of the question is getting at
    – divibisan
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 18:07
  • 1
    Worth noting that, according to this Wikipedia picture, the shipping lanes should in the your graphic are already within the territorial waters of Oman. It's only west of that location where the lanes are in Iranian waters. So the canal there wouldn't have much, if any, impact on how much of the shipping lanes are within Iran's waters.
    – Jimmy M.
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 18:11
  • Logically speaking, no oil-producing countries and corporation going to support the canal nor the oil pipeline. Though counterintuitive, any tension build-up in the middle-east benefits oil-producing countries and oil corporation than harming it.
    – mootmoot
    Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 14:30

1 Answer 1


Not with a canal

If Iran came into Omani waters to capture the tanker transiting the Strait of Hormuz, what is keeping it from coming into Omani waters outside the canal? This seems to just be a very expensive way to move the problem further back in the Persian Gulf. Iran borders the entire length of the Persian Gulf, not just the Strait of Hormuz.


Cost estimate: $6 to $50 million per kilometer of canal. And that may be for a cheaper canal.

Rather than building a canal, which is expensive and would take years of construction, it seems much simpler to build a pipeline across Saudi Arabia. Pour oil in one end and pump it into ships on the other end.

Cost estimate: $4 million per kilometer.

It may not seem that much cheaper, particularly if it ends up being longer. But remember that with a pipeline, you don't also have to pay a ship to carry the oil that distance. The pipeline is a complete solution, where a canal is only part of the solution (you still need a ship to do the actual transport). Further, a pipeline actually avoids the Persian Gulf entirely. To interfere, the Iranians would have to land or go much further from Iranian waters (to interdict in the Red Sea). They couldn't just sort of zip across into Omani waters and then haul the ship back into their own waters.

One end of your canal would be outside the Persian Gulf, but the other end is still in it and vulnerable to interdiction by the Iranians. Sure it's outside their waters, but they can slip across and then back. They'll never be that far outside their waters. That's not true of the Red Sea.

An alternative would be to reopen the Trans-Arabian Pipeline. That might be cheaper than building entirely new, and it would outlet in the Mediterranean.

  • according to this map from the BBC showing the route of the seized UK tanker the location where they seized it is technically in Oman's Coastal waters. however, the route that can be opened with a 225 meter long and wide canal is entirely in Oman's territorial waters which are mostly internal waters, it's a more far and much smaller area that can be much easier to defend from mining and attacks. as for the issue with the entire gulf, it's why I asked the 2nd question, ships can stick to Arabian coastal waters, it only adds 300km of distance from the Strait to Kuwait.
    – Wis
    Commented Jul 25, 2019 at 20:44
  • Surely the pipeline is only a complete solution if the destination of the oil is the Red Sea? If the destination is anywhere in Asia then the ships would have a longer route. And other Gulf countries might prefer to be dependent on Oman than Saudi Arabia, which has far greater pretensions to regional dominance. Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 10:06
  • The article says that it would cost $100-300 million to recondition the Trans-Arabian Pipeline. That seems a far cheaper and easier option than a war. Commented Jul 28, 2019 at 18:01
  • 2
    @Benjamin I didn't really get into it in this answer, but I find it unlikely that any of this will prevent a war with Iran. If anything, it makes Iran more desperate and likely to go to war more openly. The comparisons shouldn't be to war with Iran but to other methods of securing the oil flow. Reconditioning TAP is cheaper than a new pipeline or building a canal.
    – Brythan
    Commented Jul 28, 2019 at 18:09

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