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Shipping industry asks removal of the Somalia coast from high risk areas, as piracy declines in Indian Ocean

The International Chamber of Shipping, with a press release issued on 22 August, announced that a request has been submitted to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) together with other representatives of the worldwide shipping industry, to remove the section of the Indian Ocean waters including the Gulf of Aden in Somalia, as well as the Djibouti, Eritrea and a part of the Kenyan coast from the list of the piracy-high risk areas, due to a significant reduction of pirates attacks in the latest years. The request will be discussed on 31 October 2022 to the next meeting of the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee, the body dealing with all issues related to maritime safety and maritime security of passenger and cargo ships, with the removal to be effective from 1 January 2023.

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) established in 1992 a Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC), an independent and non-governmental agency based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, that receives notifications by shipmasters on any piracy, armed robberies on board of ships or suspicious movements of boats and skiffs that occur in the various areas of the world, so to monitor such phenomena and raise awareness within the shipping industry of unsafe waters. The PRC publishes on its website a series of live maps that describe, each year, where incidents happened and their description. The website currently shows maps of 2020, 2021 and 2022.

The latest IMB piracy report, published in July and covering the period January-June 2022, shows that during the first 6 months of 2022, a total of 58 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships have been reported worldwide, the lowest total since 1994.

In Africa, the piracy hotspot areas are two: 1) the Gulf of Guinea, where a total of 12 incidents were reported in the first 6 months of 2022 (ten of which defined as armed robberies and 2 as piracy), and 2) the Gulf of Aden, offshore the Somali coast, where no incidents have been reported since 2018, except for a piracy attack attempt in the beginning of 2021 perpetrated by a skiff with armed persons who tried to capture a bulk vessel while underway in the Gulf of Aden. Other occasional robberies have been reported at the Fernao Veloso Bay Anchorage in Mozambique and at the Durban port in South Africa in 2021 and 2022, respectively.

The decline of piracy incidents around Somalia and neighbouring waters is a result of more than a decade of effective threat-reducing counter-piracy operations put in place by many regional and international stakeholders. The removal of the Gulf of Aden from the piracy high risk areas will mean a change in the UKHO (United Kingdom Hydrographic Office) Chart Q6099, the map that sets the maritime coordinates of the area in the Horn Africa classified as high risk, which also includes the Djibouti, Eritrea and a part of the Kenyan coast, as shown below.

The cancellation of the high risk area from the UKHO Chart Q6099 does not mean that those waters are completely safe. Best Management Practices 5 (BMP5) will continue to provide the necessary guidance for shipping to ensure that adequate 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 also continue to monitor and advise on maritime security threats to assist the safe transit of vessels and the seafarers who crew them. The decision to remove the Gulf of Aden from the list of the piracy hotspots is expected to have a positive impact on shipping costs in the Horn of Africa, as it will reduce insurance costs and other security costs for vessels transiting in such waters, with the potential to increase port traffic in the region.

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