On August 22nd 2022, key maritime industry bodies (International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), BIMCO, International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA), INTERCARGO, INTERTANKO, and Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF)) forwarded the notification of their declassification of the Indian Ocean High-Risk Area (HRA) effective from 1st January 2023 in a submission to the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The industry bodies came to this decision as a result of over 15 years of successful counter-piracy operations by international stakeholders, including the use of privately contracted armed security personnel (PSCAP) provided by private maritime security companies (PMSC). These combined efforts have reduced the threat of piracy to near zero.
However, this declassification of the HRA can be misunderstood and create confusion for owners, charters and seafarers leading to assumptions regarding a lack of risk in the region. Therefore, this blog aims to provide an informed and balanced viewpoint on this issue for all interested parties.
Firstly, it is critical to note that the threat of piracy has been suppressed and not eliminated. All parties should also remain aware of the wider threats in the region.
Removal of the Indian Ocean High-Risk Area: Key Points
- Industry bodies maintain their recognition of the threat piracy poses (among the other existing threats in the region).
- Industry bodies strongly recommend that vessels and seafarers passing through the area after the declassification continue to take the security measures that are currently required i.e. the application of BMP5 procedures together with the support of a properly trained armed security team from a recognised PMSC onboard the vessel.
- A reduction in incidents does not equate to the elimination of the threat of piracy. Piracy will return given the opportunity, including a reduction in security measures and vigilance.
- Formally recognised and formidable threats still remain in the Gulf of Aden, Babel Mandeb Strait and the Southern Red Sea in particular.
- Existing and emerging regional threats to the shipping industry include:
- Geopolitical Conflict
- State-on-State Tension
- WBIED, anti-ship missiles, sea mines, limpet mines, UAVs, remote suicide explosive boats, navigational or communication disruptions.
- The implementation of security measures (BMP5) and the use of PCASP present a negligible cost versus the benefits in ensuring the safety of cargo, vessels and seafarers.
Castor Vali’s primary aim remains to identify threats and mitigate the risk to vessels and seafarers on behalf of our clients. As such we strongly recommend the continued use of armed guards from recognised PMSCs and the implementation of BMP5 procedures when transiting high-risk waters.