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Shipping Industry to Remove Indian Ocean ‘High Risk Area’ Designation as Piracy Threat Subsides

A French warship with EU NAVFOR escorts a World Food Program Vessel off the coast of Somalia in March 2013. Photo: EU NAVFOR

Shipping Industry to Remove Indian Ocean ‘High Risk Area’ Designation as Piracy Threat Subsides

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 1869
August 22, 2022

A group of shipping industry bodies have decided the remove the Indian Ocean “High Risk Area”, reflecting a signicantly improved piracy situation in the region, the International Chamber of Shipping announced Monday.

The High Risk Area was established in 2010 at the height of the Somalia piracy threat. During the 2010-2011 timeframe, a merchant ship was attacked by Somali pirates about every other day on average, with 415 attacks and almost 80 successful highjackings over the course of two years, according to EU Naval Force – Somalia’s count of reported incidents. At any given time, pirates held for ransom dozens of vessels and hundreds of seafarers. One report estimated the cost of Somali piracy at its peak to be $7 billion annually, the vast majority of which was paid for by the shipping industry to help protect its vessels.

Thanks to counter-piracy efforts, such as the increased use of private armed security guards, international naval coalitions, and improving conditions ashore, the number piracy incidents in the Horn of Africa region started to decline rapidly. By 2013, successful hijackings all but fell to zero.

Since then, there have been one-off incidents, but nothing even close to what it was during its peak. In fact, no piracy attacks against ships have occurred off Somalia since 2018.

The Indian Ocean “High Risk Area” (HRA) was previously reduced in size as of September 2021. After more than a decade, the HRA designation is now set to be removed altogether.

The UN International Maritime Organization was informed of the decision today made by International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), BIMCO, International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA), INTERCARGO, INTERTANKO and Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF), ahead of the next meeting of the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee scheduled to start on October 31. The removal will be effective from January 1, 2023, allowing charterers, shipowners and operators time to adapt to the changed threat from piracy.

“This announcement is a testament to nearly 15 years of dedicated collaboration to reduce the threat of piracy in the Indian Ocean,” the HRA IMO submission co-sponsors said in joint statement. “Through a combination of efforts by military, political, civil society, and the shipping industry over the years, operators and seafarers are now able to operate with increased confidence in these waters.”

The area being removed is the “High Risk Area” as shown on UKHO Chart Q6099.

The shipping industry will continue to monitor and advise on maritime security threats to assist the safe transit of vessels and the seafarers who crew them. Pre-voyage threat and risk assessments should consider the latest maritime security information from organisations supporting the Voluntary Reporting Area (VRA). The VRA, administered by UKMTO, has not changed. Ships entering the VRA are encouraged to report to the UKMTO and register with the Maritime Security Centre for the Horn of Africa (MSCHOA)

Best Management Practices 5 (BMP5) will also continue to provide the necessary guidance for shipping to ensure threat and risk assessments are developed for every voyage to mitigate any remaining risks.

“Thanks and gratitude is given to all the seafarers and offshore workers who have served during this time in safely maintaining global trade and operations,” the statement said.

“Threat and risk assessments should still be carried out, and best management practices followed to continue to mitigate the risks presented in a changeable and often complex and potentially threatening environment.”

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