After more than a decade of effective threat-reducing counter-piracy operations the shipping industry has removed the ‘Indian Ocean High Risk Area’ (HRA).
Notification of the removal of the HRA from 0001 UTC on 1 January 2023 by industry bodies was forwarded on 22 August, to the IMO for the next meeting of the Maritime Safety Committee scheduled to start on 31 October 2022.
The removal of the HRA reflects a significantly improved piracy situation in the region, largely due to concerted counter-piracy efforts by many regional and international stakeholders. No piracy attacks against merchant ships have occurred off Somalia since 2018.
According to the latest report by the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB), it received the lowest number of reported incidents for the first half of any year since 1994.
IMB’s latest global piracy report details 58 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships – the lowest total since 1994 – down from 68 incidents during the same period last year. In the first six months of 2022, IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) reported 55 vessels boarded, two attempted attacks and one vessel hijacked.
The IMO has been informed of the decision made by International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), BIMCO, International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA), INTERCARGO, INTERTANKO and Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF).
Measures enacted to secure the waters by military, political, civil society, and shipping industry, as well as Best Management Practices guidance, have reduced the threat of piracy in the Indian Ocean.
The removal of the HRA will come into effect at 0001 UTC on 1 January 2023, allowing charterers, shipowners and operators time to adapt to the changed threat from piracy.
Best Management Practices 5 (BMP5) will continue to provide the necessary guidance for shipping to ensure threat and risk assessments are developed for every voyage to mitigate the risks presented by remaining security threats in the region.
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 VRA.
The area being removed is the “High Risk Area” as shown on UKHO Chart Q6099. The Voluntary Reporting Area (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) in accordance with industry BMP (Best Management Practices).
The HRA IMO submission co-sponsors commented:
This announcement is a testament to nearly 15 years of dedicated collaboration to reduce the threat of piracy in the Indian Ocean. 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
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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