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The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) has issued an advisory to shipping after receiving reports of small boats in a Gulf of Aden transit corridor meant to protect ships from piracy.
“UKMTO have received reports of approximately 10-12 small boats with up to 6 persons on each in the vicinity of IRTC Point B,” the advisory reads.
IRTC Point B is the eastern entrance to the Gulf of Aden Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) which was established in 2009 in response to the scourge of Somali-based piracy. The IRTC is 492 miles long with an eastbound and westbound lane measuring five miles wide where naval assets are concentrated. It is patrolled by the Combined Task Force 151 (CTF 151), currently under Brazilian leadership, working alongside European Union Naval Force Somalia (EU NAVFOR) and other partners.
Ships are strongly encouraged to use the IRTC to reduce the risk of falling victim to piracy.
The UKMTO’s advisory comes as the shipping has now removed its “High Risk Area” (HRA) designation for the western Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden, and southern Red Sea, as of January 1, 2023, thanks to a lull in Somali-based piracy incidents.
Te Indian Ocean HRA was established in 2010 at the height of Somali piracy, when a ship was attacked about once every other day on average. Thanks to these coordinated counter-piracy efforts, along with increased use of private armed security guards, improving conditions ashore, and the shipping industry’s use of Best Management Practices 5 guidance, piracy incidents started to fall off rapidly and the free flow of commerce has been mostly re-established in the region.
According to CTF 151, the last attack by pirates in the Somali Basin took place in April 2019 and was ultimately unsuccessful. The last successful piracy attack was in Spring 2017, marking just the first hijacking since 2012.
Despite this lull in incidents, mariners are still encouraged to remain vigilant when transiting the region.
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