What are straits? How straits are formed? What is the significance of straits? What are the differences between Gulf and Strait? Which are the major straits in the world? Read here to know more about Straits.
In March 2021, the Suez Canal was blocked for six days after the grounding of Ever Given, a 20,000 container ship. On 28 March, at least 369 ships were queuing to pass through the canal. This prevented an estimated US$9.6 billion worth of trade. This shows the importance of straits and canals in world trade.
What are straits?
Strait is a naturally formed, narrow, typically navigable waterway that connects two larger bodies of water. Most commonly it is a channel of water that lies between two landmasses. Some straits are not navigable, for example, because they are too shallow, or because of an unnavigable reef or archipelago.
How straits are formed?
It is possible that the narrow-shaped isthmus fracture will result in straits. It connects different water bodies. According to legend, straits occur as a result of plate tectonic activity. For instance, the tectonic activity in Africa is what created the Strait of Gibraltar.
It is a breakdown of the Gibraltar Isthmus. However, human activity also creates straits which are named canals. It is used for directing water flow for domestic and commercial consumption. One such strait is Suez Canal, built-in 1869.
Between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, it serves as a watershed. Originally constructed for commerce, it today serves as a waterway connecting Europe and Asia. Without a watershed, one would have to travel into Africa to convey goods, which lengthens the journey time. Therefore, certain straits are constructed to stimulate commercial activity.
Straits can also created when water bodies flood. Straits are also formed as a result of erosion and landslides. The Bosporus connects the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea. Bosporus was created as a result of weathering and erosion occurring naturally. As the only physical boundary between the continents of Europe and Asia, the Bosporus is crucial for geologists.
What is the significance of straits?
- Straits play an important role in the Seaborne trade for commercial shipping.
- They play an important role in geopolitics.
- Straits have played an essential role in human civilization for millennia.
- They play an important role in economic and military matters.
- Major straits of the world are used for commercial shipping to travel from one exclusive zone or sea to another.
- Straits are immensely commercially and strategically important. Straits provide various navigable routes to many ships. For instance, the strait of Hormuz plays an important role as the world’s one-third of oil trade takes place through this strait.
- Straits are also used in generating tidal power with the help of turbines. For example, 5.6 GW of energy is produced by Cook’s strait of New Zealand.
- The Strait plays a vital role in serving as a channel through which ocean currents are passed which helps in mortifying the climate of that area. That is why straits are playing an essential role both in physical and human geography.
Differences between Gulf and Strait
Gulfs and Straits have been considered geographical features on the earth’s surface. Both gulfs and straits are part of the water body.
Gulf refers to an inlet within the sea which is deep and has a narrow opening. Gulf refers to the portion of the ocean which penetrates within the land. It can be different in shape, deepness and size.
Straits refer to a narrow waterway that acts as a connector toward a large water body. The connector is a link between two watersheds; hence, it is formed due to a fracture of the isthmus. Straits are generally formed due to tectonic shifts.
The gulf and Straits are both man-made and natural; they are used for economic purposes. The Gulf of Mexico and Oman has been used as economic sites for transport and trading. The Gulf of Mexico is the largest gulf used for recreational activities, commercial, and sports. Suez Canal is the largest man-made strait used for trading and transportation purposes.
The gulf is a sea portion that penetrates within the land.
Straits are narrow watersheds that act as a connector between two huge water bodies.
It connects both land and sea.
It is a connector of water bodies only.
The gulf is usually formed naturally.
It is majorly man-made, like canals.
The gulf is very helpful for harbouring ships.
They are very small and cannot be used for harbouring purposes.
Sometimes, it is also considered a large bay.
They are very narrow and are used as canals.
eg: Gulf of Mannar, Persian gulf
eg: Hormuz straits, Malacca strait
Some of the major straits in the world
1. Strait of Hormuz:
- It links the Persian Gulf (West) with the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea (southeast).
- It contains the Islands of Qeshm, Hormuz and Hengam.
- It is of crucial strategic and economic significance, particularly given that oil tankers bringing in cargo from several Persian Gulf ports must cross the strait.
- OPEC members Saudi Arabia, Iran, the UAE, Kuwait and Iraq export most of the crude via the strait.
- Qatar, the world’s biggest LNG exporter, sends almost all of its LNG through the strait.
2. Strait of Malacca:
- It connects the Andaman Sea (Indian Ocean) and the South China Sea (Pacific Ocean)
- It is the longest strait in the world, measuring roughly 800 kilometres, and it not only makes it easier for locals to travel about, but it also serves as a hub for trade, culture, ideas, and information between East and West.
- The Strait of Malacca connects the Indian Ocean with the South China Maritime, making it the shortest sea route between China and India and one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.
- The importance of this region has grown as a result of the worldwide shift in economic power from the West to the East as well as booming commerce, investments, and production in areas spanning the Indian and Pacific Ocean basins.
3. Bab al-Mandab:
- The strait known as Bab al-Mandab is what divides the Arabian Peninsula from the Horn of Africa.
- It connects the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden.
- The strait, which is bordered by Yemen on one side and Djibouti and Eritrea on the other, is barely 29 km wide at its narrowest point.
- It is a crucial strategic route for trade and commerce, with an estimated 4% of the world’s oil supply travelling through it.
4. Palk Strait:
- It links Palk Bay in the southwest with the Bay of Bengal in the northeast.
- The strait is less than 330 feet (100 metres) deep, 40 to 85 miles (64 to 137 km) long, and 64 to 137 km broad.
- On the Sri Lankan side, it has several islands and receives various rivers, notably the Vaigai (India).
- The Adam’s Bridge is a collection of sand shoals formed over time by sedimentation.
- A calcareous foundation of dead reef and sand supports every island.
- Part of the Gulf of Mannar between Rameswaram and Tuticorin, which includes 21 islands and the nearby shallow coastal waters, was designated as a Marine National Park in 1986 due to its great biodiversity of over 4,000 species of varied flora and wildlife.
5. Sunda Strait:
- It connects the Indian Ocean to the Java Sea in the Pacific Ocean (south).
Between the east Java and Sumatra islands is the Sunda Strait, or Selat Sunda in Indonesian. Its width ranges from 16 to 70 miles (26 to 110 kilometres).
- An essential route linking eastern Asia and the Indian Ocean is the Sunda Strait.
- This shallowness, very powerful tidal currents, sandbanks, and man-made obstacles like oil rigs off the Java coast make it infamously challenging to navigate.
- Many big, contemporary ships utilise the Strait of Malacca instead of the strait due to its narrowness, shallowness, and lack of good mapping.
6. Mozambique Channel:
- It is situated between the eastern island country of Madagascar and Mozambique on the continent of Africa (west).
- The northern entrance is marked by the Comoro Archipelago, and the southern entry is marked by the islands of Bassas da India and Europa.
- It receives all main Madagascar rivers and has the ports of Mahajanga (Majunga) and Toliary (Tuléar) on the same coast, making it a crucial route for commerce in eastern Africa.
- The mouth of the Zambezi River and the ports of Maputo (formerly Lourenço Marques), Moçambique, and Beira are located on the opposite shore.
- The strait is traversed by the Mozambique Current.
7. Gibraltar Strait:
- It is a waterway that runs between the southernmost point of Spain and the westernmost point of Africa, bridging the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
- Between Point Marroqu (Spain) and Point Cires, it is 36 miles (58 km) long and narrows to 8 miles (13 km) in width (Morocco).
- Because it allows for seaborne transit for commerce between the Atlantic and Mediterranean, as well as via the Suez Canal into the Indian Ocean and beyond, it is one of the most important worldwide sea lanes.
- The Strait is the busiest shipping waterway in the world after the English Channel.
8. Bosphorus strait and Dardanelles strait:
- The Bosphorus sometimes referred to as the Strait of Istanbul, is a narrow, naturally occurring waterway that connects northwest Turkey to the rest of the world.
- The Bosporus links the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara and, indirectly, to the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas via the Dardanelles.
- It is the narrowest strait in the world that is used for international shipping.
- The Dardanelles, a strait that separates Asian Turkey from European Turkey, is a narrow, naturally occurring, and globally significant waterway that is located in northwest Turkey.
- The Sea of Marmara is linked to the Aegean, Mediterranean, and, indirectly through the Bosphorus, the Black Sea by the Dardanelles.
Important geological features created by biological processes include the gulf and straits. However, the differences may be distinguished by their size, shape, and depth in addition to other characteristics. The gulf is a sea portion that penetrates with the landmass while straits are surrounded by ocean on all sides. The Gulf has a narrow opening while the entire shape and size of the strait is narrow. Both are used for trade and commercial purposes
Article written by: Aseem Muhammed