The world’s leading shipping organisations have announced they are to change the current geographic boundaries of the ‘High Risk Area’ (HRA) for piracy in the Indian Ocean in the first step of a plan to create a global piracy threat system.
The group said that the continued downward trend in Somali piracy has prompted a redrawing of the HRA which will now be reduced and will apply from 1 September 2021.
In broad terms, the changes agreed by BIMCO, ICS, INTERCARGO, INTERTANKO, and OCIMF, representing the global shipping and oil industries, will reduce the HRA boundaries to the Yemeni and Somali Territorial Seas and Exclusive Economic Zones in its eastern and southern reaches.
It comes with calls for a new global threat systems to be created that will; become a more granular threat rating that will take into account not only the geography but also the type of vessel and whether they are a target for piracy in specific areas.
The “comprehensive new approach to assessing international maritime security threats” will be designed to allow shipowners and operators to fully gauge the risk of voyages worldwide. The work on the scheme is expected to be completed by the ends of the year.
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and as new security threats have emerged or intensified outside the Indian Ocean it has become clear the HRA is outdated and misleading.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 shipowners, operators, and seafarers where pirates operated and where extra vigilance was required to avoid attacks.
Under the current scheme the area previously classified as “high risk” forms only a part of the area called the Voluntary Reporting Area (VRA). Ships entering the VRA 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).
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 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.
David Loosley, BIMCO Secretary General and CEO said: “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, face different risk levels.”
Robert Drysdale, OCIMF Managing Director said: “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.”