Navy welcomes reduction of piracy risk area in Indian Ocean

New Delhi: The Indian Navy on Thursday welcomed the reduction in limits of piracy High Risk Area (HRA) in the Indian Ocean by European Union Chair of the Contact Group of Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS).

“The unanimous agreement by the shipping industry ’roundtable’ 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 in various forums since 2012,” a navy statement said.

The CGPCS on Thursday announced the revision of the limits of the piracy HRA with effect from December 1. 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 78 degree East longitude, thereby including the west coast of India within the HRA.

“The extension of the eastern limit of the HRA from 65 degree East to 78 degree East 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,” the statement said. India deployed naval ships in the Gulf of Aden since October 2008 for anti-piracy patrols.

Both the navy and Coast Guard undertook operation Island Watch, which led to the arrest of 120 pirates from four pirate ‘motherships’ 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 March 2012,” it said.

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.

The issue had been under debate since 2012, and on India’s behest ad hoc meetings of the CGPCS chaired by EU, were held in October 2014 in Dubai and March 2015 in Brussels towards finding a way forward. In June 2015, 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 July 2015 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 October 2015 which has now been honoured,” the statement said.

“With the revision of the HRA, some of India’s maritime security concerns viz floating armouries and proliferation of private security are likely to be addressed. In addition, Indian ship-owners are likely to benefit significantly on account of savings on insurance and associated operating costs,” it added.

Noting India remains committed to strengthening maritime security in the region especially in the East Arabian Sea, it said that towards this, its naval ships and aircraft continue to escort merchant ships of all nations in the Gulf of Aden.