An area of the Indian Ocean near Somalia—once known as a piracy hotbed—has been removed from the shipping industry’s list of high-risk areas following more than a decade of military, political, civil society and the industry measures to secure the waters. No piracy attacks against merchant ships have occurred off Somalia since 2018.
On Monday, shipping industry groups International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), BIMCO, International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA), INTERCARGO, INTERTANKO and Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) announced that they have informed the International Maritime Organization (IMO) that the ‘Indian Ocean High Risk Area’ (HRA) will be removed in light of a significantly improved piracy situation in the region, largely due to concerted counter-piracy efforts by many regional and international stakeholders.
Notification of the removal was submitted to the IMO for the next meeting of the Maritime Safety Committee scheduled to start on October 31, 2022.
The area being removed is the “High Risk Area” as shown on UKHO Chart Q6099. The removal will come into effect on January 1, 2023, allowing charterers, shipowners and operators time to adapt to the changed threat from piracy.
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).
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 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.
“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.
“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.”