Shipping Industry Removing Indian Ocean High-Risk Area Designation

Map area via Risk Intelligence/Maritime Cyprus.

After more than a decade of counter-piracy operations, the shipping industry is removing the designated High-Risk Area (HRA) in the Indian Ocean.

Notification of the removal, which would go into effect Jan. 1, 2023 was forwarded in an Aug. 22 submission the International Maritime Organization for the next meeting of the Maritime Safety Committee, which is scheduled to start Oct. 31.

“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,” the International Maritime Organization explained in a statement. No piracy attacks against merchant ships have occurred off Somalia since 2018, according to the IMO.

According to the IMO, the decision to remove the designation was made by the organizations International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), BIMCO, International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA), INTERCARGO, INTERTANKO and Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF).

The decision was made in part due to a reduced threat of piracy in the Indian Ocean caused by securement of the waters by military, political, civil society and the shipping industry, as well as best management practices, according to the IMO.

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 organizations supporting the VRA.

The area being removed is the “High Risk Area” as shown on UKHO Chart Q6099. The Voluntary Reporting Area 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 best management practices.

“This announcement is a testament to nearly 15 years of dedicated collaboration to reduce the threat of piracy in the Indian Ocean,” the HRA IMO submission co-sponsors said in a statement. “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.”

“Thanks and gratitude is given to all the seafarers and offshore workers who have served during this time in safely maintaining global trade and operations,” the co-sponsors’ statement continued. “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.”