Monday, August 23, 2021

Change to Boundaries as Indian Ocean Piracy Threat Recedes

Shipping and Oil Interests Modify Regional High Risk Area
Shipping News Feature

INDIAN OCEAN – Just as the Gulf of Guinea has become the world's piracy hot spot in recent months, so the attacks in the Indian Ocean which plagued the area of the Somalian coasts and beyond have receded. Now this decline is being recognised with a reduction in the local security area.

From September 1 the geographic boundaries of the ‘High Risk Area’ (HRA) for piracy in the Indian Ocean will be cut after changes were agreed by a range of the world’s leading shipping and oil recovery organisations.

In broad terms, the changes agreed by BIMCO, ICS, INTERCARGO, INTERTANKO, and OCIMF will reduce the HRA boundaries to the Yemeni and Somali Territorial Seas and Exclusive Economic Zones in its eastern and southern reaches. The organisations, in consultation with international partners, will also take a comprehensive new approach to assessing international maritime security threats to allow ship owners and operators to fully gauge the risk of voyages worldwide. This second step is expected to be completed by 31 December. Guy Platten, ICS Secretary General said:

“The security landscape is constantly evolving, and as new security threats have emerged or intensified outside the Indian Ocean it has become clear the HRA is outdated and misleading. At the height of the crisis the HRA was essential in raising awareness of the Somali Pirate threat and the need to apply mitigation measures, but it has essentially served its purpose in protecting crews and vessels in the region. Now our attention must shift to ensure we cover all maritime security threats around the globe so we continue to protect the lives of our seafarers and keep global trade moving.”

The HRA was created at the height of the Somali piracy threat in 2010 to show ship owners, operators, and seafarers where pirates operated and where extra vigilance was required to avoid attacks. Subsequent updates to the HRA have reflected the changing nature of threats in the region, including the successful suppression of Somali pirate action. Much credit must of course be given both to the sweeps undertaken by the international security forces, plus the adoption of Best Practice (BMP) methods.

The area previously classified as High Risk forms only a part of the area called the Voluntary Reporting Area (VRA) into which ships entering are encouraged to report to the UKMTO to be monitored during transit and register with the Maritime Security Centre for the Horn of Africa (MSCHOA). Pre-transit risk assessments should take into account the latest information from both the VRA and High Risk Area to minimise the possibility of incidents. David Loosley, BIMCO Secretary General and CEO observed:

“The current form of the HRA is no longer the best way to guide maritime security risk management processes. As demonstrated with the recent security incidents in the waters around the Arabian Peninsula, we need a more granular approach to the concepts of threat and risk. The next logical step is to develop a global, threat-based concept which captures how ships of various type, size, nationality, ownership etc. face different risk levels.”

Somali pirate groups have not attacked a merchant vessel since 2017, while new asymmetric threats from local conflicts and insurgents have emerged as well as the existence of more severe security threats, such as piracy off West Africa, necessitating a change in how industry assesses such dangers to shipping. Katherina Stanzel, INTERTANKO Managing Director commented that the latest move was an an interim measure to allow for the continued application of BMP 5 while the Co-Authors undertake substantive work to address maritime security threats in a global context, whilst Robert Drysdale, OCIMF Managing Director observed:

“This adjustment to the HRA better reflects the reality of the piracy threat but given the breadth of maritime security threats faced by seafarers, a more intuitive and dynamic system for highlighting threats will be most welcome.”