The suppression of Somali piracy in recent years has led to a new reduction in the size of the maritime community’s recognised High Risk Area (HRA), with risk management and insurance consequences.
From December 1 2015, the HRA will be reduced: in the Red Sea to latitude 15°N; in the Gulf of Oman to latitude 22°N; at its eastern limit to longitude 065°E; and at its southern limit to latitude 5°S (see image of Admiralty Chart Q6099).
The maritime industry stakeholders behind the latest Best Management Practice (BMP4) guidance said the new HRA advice would be disseminated between now and December “in order to give shipping companies and crews time to adapt”.
“It is strongly recommended that the revisions are taken into account as soon as possible for voyages through the VRA
The HRA is used as a factor to determine marine insurance premium for transits, in line with Lloyd’s Joint War Committee guidance, while also as the main risk management parameter for ships entering and leaving, to begin taking BMP4 precautions and report to the regional voluntary reporting centre, UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO Dubai).
“Whilst the revision re-designates the area considered to be at a high risk of Somalia-based pirate groups, it is stressed that these groups retain the ability to attack at historical limits of their activity. As such, the three pillars of BMP4, namely registering at MSCHOA, reporting to UKMTO and implementing ship protection measures on the basis of a thorough risk assessment remain essential,” Bimco said in its alert.
Somali pirates haven’t successfully hijacked a vessel in three years, since the widespread introduction of armed security teams, myriad BMP4 measures, and increased international naval presence – a limited number of unsuccessful attacks have taken place on large vessels in the shipping lanes, but even these have dropped off since 2013.
Piracy remains a much bigger threat in other parts of the world: the busy, strategic Malacca Strait between the Indian and Pacific Oceans; the coastal seas of Southeast Asia; and the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea (GoG) off West Africa.
“Any lowering of guard in the region is likely to present an opportunity for a resurgence of pirate activities," said Bimco. "Therefore, along with the commitment to its own security responsibilities, the shipping industry remains fully supportive of continued military deployments on a counter-piracy mandate for so long as the threat of pirate action groups exists."
The new HRA revisions will not constitute a full BMP4 overhaul but be provided on industry websites, noted Bimco, including www.bimco.org, as well as NATO Shipping Centre (www.shipping.nato.int) and the Maritime Security Centre for the Horn of Africa (MSCHOA; www.mschoa.org).
“This amendment to the HRA is well considered and reflects the balance of caution and progress,” said Graeme Gibbon Brooks, CEO of maritime security intelligence firm Dryad Maritime. “The message from the naval forces is unequivocal that the threat remains, albeit inactive. However, it is clear that the audacious long range attacks seen in 2009-2011 are not the most likely course of action and thus a de-escalation of risk posture in these areas is wholly appropriate.”
Ian Millen, Dryad’s chief operating officer, added: “This is great news for the maritime industry and seafarers alike. Whilst we are not about to drop our guard on piracy or other regional maritime security issues, such as the war in Yemen, this HRA reduction of approximately 55% or 1.7 million square miles of ocean will give the hard-pressed industry cause for optimism with the potential for reduced operating costs.”