Shippers Redraw Perimeter of High Piracy Risk Area

Shipping groups have redrawn the perimeters of the so-called High Risk Area covering Yemen and Somalia due to a decrease in Somali piracy.

As of Sept. 1, the High Risk Area (HRA) was set to be scaled back to cover the Yemeni and Somali territorial seas and exclusive economic zones to the east and south.

The changes were agreed to by the Baltic & International Maritime Council (BIMCO), International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the International Association of Dry Cargo Shipowners (INTERCARGO), the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO), and the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF), representing the global shipping and oil industries.

The modifications to the HRA reduce the HRA boundaries to the Yemeni and Somali territorial seas and Exclusive Economic Zones in its eastern and southern reaches.

The zones were drawn up in 2010 to show shipowners, operators, and seafarers where pirates operated and where extra vigilance was required to avoid attacks. But with Somali piracy being suppressed and no attacks on merchant ships since 2017, West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea now claims the title of having the world’s most dangerous waters, while Middle Eastern conflicts also threaten some ships.

Kenya recently succeeded in its attempt to exclude its waters from the HRA after complaining that it put off tourists and foreign investors and raised the cost of imports to it and neighboring countries.

The organizations, in consultation with international partners, have said they’ll take a comprehensive new approach to assessing international maritime security threats to allow shipowners and operators to fully gauge the risk of voyages worldwide. This second step is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Subsequent updates to the HRA have reflected the changing nature of threats in the region, including the successful suppression of Somali pirate action. Somali pirate groups haven’t attacked a merchant vessel since 2017, according to BIMCO, but new threats from local conflicts and insurgents have emerged, as well as the existence of more severe security threats, such as piracy off West Africa, requiring a change in how industry assesses such dangers to shipping.

“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and as new security threats have emerged or intensified outside the Indian Ocean it has become clear the HRA is outdated and misleading,” ICS Secretary General Guy Platten, said. “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,” he added.

BIMCO Secretary General and CEO David Loosley echoed Platten’s comments.

“The current form of the HRA is no longer the best way to guide maritime security risk management processes,” he stated. “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,” he continued, “is to develop a global, threat-based concept which captures how ships of various type, size, nationality, ownership etc. face different risk levels.”

INTERTANKO Managing Director Katherina Stanzel called the new designation an “interim measure” to allow for the continued application of measures to deter piracy and enhance maritime security while work is done to address maritime security threats in a global context.

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

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