David Caron in his elegant exposé on the Great Straits Debate explains that:
Straits simultaneously involve interests both near and far. And it is that fact that makes passage through straits a difficult object of negotiations. Although all nations have an interest in efficient shipping, it is particular nations—often far from the straits—that have interests in the unimpeded movement of naval vessels or that directly or through their nationals have interests in the unimpeded movement of commercial vessels. Simultaneously, it is the states with coasts on these straits that most directly face the risks and other costs of such vessel passage. Negotiating solutions to this ‘near-far’ clash of interests is inherently difficult.
Straits are by definition narrow waterways linking seas and the ocean which often provide significant time-saving and cost-cutting navigational routes to commercial shipping. In turn, this navigationally advantageous position can give coastal States the power to exert control over passage of international shipping by imposing regulatory conditions or even by completely closing passage to foreign ships. The topic of straits has taken its place in the great discourses of international law stretching over a period of more than three centuries, dating back to Hugo Grotius in the seventeenth century and well into the twentieth century. The question of the legal rights of passage for foreign ships through straits has held a prominent place in international law and the law of the sea, especially during the negotiations of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).