According to Gard P&I Club, regional conflicts, military activity, and political tensions continue to pose threats to commercial vessels operating in high risk areas such as the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, Bab el-Mandeb Strait, and Western Indian Ocean.
Risk mitigation measures
s a result, Gard presents risk mitigation measures for vessels operating in these waters. Interested partied are advised to exercise caution, review security measures, ensure that AIS is always transmitting (except in extraordinary circumstances) in accordance with the provisions of the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), and monitor VHF Channel 16. In addition, vessels are recommended by Gard to take the following precautions when operating in the regions:
- Undertake a pre-voyage threat and risk assessment before entering any region where there has been an incident or where the threat has changed.
- Review the Ship Security Plan and amend it, if necessary, after performing the pre-voyage threat and risk assessment. Take advice from industry-issued best practices.
- Conduct security training and drills prior to entering areas of increased risk.
- Strictly observe any exclusion zones or guidance issued by coastal states.
- Maintain a full and vigilant bridge watch for any small craft approaching. However, masters are reminded that fishermen in the region may try to protect their nets by attempting to aggressively approach merchant vessels and that some of them may be armed to protect their catch.
- Participate in all available applicable voluntary reporting schemes to ensure communication is maintained directly with coalition forces in the regions (UKMTO, IMSC and EMASoH, as applicable). Immediately report any incident or suspicious activity.
- Answer all VHF calls professionally. Do not ignore!
Indian Ocean high risk area
Vessel operators and masters are likely aware of the industry’s decision to remove the Indian Ocean High Risk Area (HRA) for piracy as of 1 January 2023. However, threat and risk assessments should still be conducted also after this date, and best management practices followed to continue to mitigate the risks presented by any remaining security threats in the region, Gard notes.
Furthermore, the Voluntary Reporting Area (VRA) administered by the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) has not changed. Vessels entering the VRA are encouraged to continue to report to the UKMTO and register with the Maritime Security Centre for the Horn of Africa (MSCHOA) in accordance with the BMP5, Gard concludes.