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A round table group of international shipping associations, including BIMCO, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), INTERCARGO and INTERTANKO, as well as the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF), which represents the global shipping and oil industry, have announced that the geographic boundaries of the High Risk Area (HRA) for piracy in the Indian Ocean have been reduced. As a result, new advice has been issued to operators of merchant vessels in the region.

The revised HRA designates the area where a threat from piracy still exists, while recognising the ongoing containment of pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean. The industry groups, who are responsible for setting the HRA boundaries, emphasised that a serious threat remains, despite the reduction to the size of the area, and that correct reporting, vigilance and adherence to 5th edition of the best management practice (BMP5) remains crucial.

The reduction to the HRA takes full account of recent shipping industry experience, pirate intent and capability and follows extensive consultation with military naval forces, including Combined Maritime Forces, EUNAVFOR and the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO), which continue to provide vital advice and protection to shipping.

The area previously classified as “high risk” forms only a part of the area called the Voluntary Reporting Area (VRA). Ships entering the VRA are encouraged to report to the UKMTO to be monitored during transit and register with the Maritime Security Centre for the Horn of Africa (MSCHOA). Pre-transit risk assessments should take into account the latest information from both the VRA and HRA.

The industry associations further emphasised that in view of the continuing threat of pirate attacks, shipping companies must continue to maintain full compliance with BMP5 and be vigilant in their voluntary reporting of piracy incidents, sighting of potential pirates, and any suspicious activity, as this provides crucial intelligence on risk levels in the area. The industry associations say they will continue to monitor developments to the security situation, and will adjust the HRA again if and when the situation warrants it.

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