Smooth Sailing:The World's Shipping Lanes Are Safe

The dangers facing oil tankers carrying their vital cargo over long distances haunt leaders worldwide and animate their discussions about naval procurement. Military analysts in countries such as China and India have begun to assert that their countries need their own blue-water navies to protect tankers on their journeys from foreign terminals to home ports.

This argument is understandable given that much of the world's oil supply travels by sea. The United States, the world's largest oil consumer, imports 60 percent of the oil it consumes, over 95 percent of which arrives by sea. Japan, the world's third-largest oil consumer, is almost completely dependent on maritime imports. In 2005, China imported 46 percent of the oil it consumed, India 68 percent. By 2025, import figures are expected to balloon to 75 percent of total consumption for China and approximately 85 percent for India. Both bring in roughly 90 percent of their imported oil by sea.

Most of these countries

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