European Union Chair of the Contact Group of Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS), today 08 Oct 2015, announced the revision of the limits of the piracy High Risk Area (HRA) with effect from 01 December 15. The unanimous agreement by the shipping industry ‘round-table’ to now redraw the eastern limit of the HRA is a welcome move which is likely to address some of India’s maritime security concerns, which have been highlighted by the Government of India (MoD/ Indian Navy, MEA, DG Shipping) in various forums since 2012.
Consequent to the spread of piracy to the East Arabian Sea, the international shipping industry extended the eastern limit of piracy HRA in June 2010 to 78oE longitude, thereby including the west coast of India within the HRA. The extension of the eastern limit of the HRA from 65 oE to 78oE led to security concerns on account of the presence of private security personnel onboard merchant vessels transiting the piracy HRA, and the presence of floating armouries off the Indian coast. The shipping industry also incurred additional costs for insurance and implementation of various recommendations for transit through the piracy HRA.
In addition to deployment of Indian Naval ships in the Gulf of Aden since Oct 2008 for anti-piracy patrols, robust action by the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard (Op Island Watch) led to the arrest of 120 pirates from four pirate ‘mother-ships’ between January-March 2011. Affirmative action and increased surveillance contributed towards the decline of piracy incidents in the East Arabian Sea and the last reported piratical activity in the East Arabian Sea was in Mar 12. The absence of piracy in the Indian maritime zones and adjacent seas, the security concerns and financial implications of an extended HRA led to India seeking a review of the HRA, with the support of numerous countries.
Although the issue has been under debate since 2012, on India’s behest ad hoc meetings of the CGPCS chaired by EU, were held in October 14(Dubai) and March 15 (Brussels) towards finding a way forward. In Jun 15, Indian Navy presented India’s threat assessment at a meeting of the Shared Awareness and De-confliction (SHADE), a military forum for coordinating military effort in the region. Subsequently, in Jul 15 at the 18th CGPCS meeting, discussion on HRA held centre-stage with a large number of countries supporting India’s stand. The shipping industry made a commitment at the meeting to review the HRA by Oct 15, which has now been honoured.