Indian Ocean’s piracy “high risk area” designation to be withdrawn

The US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill follows a suspected pirate vessel in the Indian Ocean, January 20, 2006. (Photo: US National Archives)

After more than a decade of effective threat-reducing counter-piracy operations, the shipping industry has removed the Indian Ocean High Risk Area (HRA), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) said recently.

Notification of the removal of the HRA from 00:01 UTC on January 1, 2023 by industry bodies was forwarded in a submission made earlier this week to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) for the next meeting of the Maritime Safety Committee scheduled to start on October 31, 2022.

The ICS said 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.

The IMO has been informed of the decision made by the ICS, BIMCO, International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA), Intercargo, Intertanko, and the 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 ICS claims.

The removal of the HRA will come into effect at 00:01 UTC on January 1, 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 Voluntary Reporting Area (VRA).

The area being removed is the “High Risk Area” as shown on UKHO Chart Q6099. The Voluntary Reporting Area (VRA) administered by UK Maritime Trade Operations (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).

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