Is The Removal Of The Indian Ocean High-Risk Area A Good Idea?
In August of this year, the International Chamber of Shipping announced that the Indian Ocean high-risk area is to be removed. Whilst this decision reflects the reduction of piracy and the success of security efforts in the region; some have doubts about removing the high-risk area. This article will give a brief history of the Indian Ocean high-risk area and analyse if the removal of the high-risk area is a good idea.
The Indian Ocean high-risk area was implemented in 2010 during the peak of Somali piracy. A high-risk area is denoted within the voluntary reporting area, indicating a higher risk of piracy where ships should employ preventive measures. Somali piracy was estimated to have lost the industry over 7 billion dollars per annum during this time, and the high-risk area was an attempt to denote awareness and coordinate international responses.
Since 2013, places like the Gulf of Guinea and South-East Asia have overtaken the Indian Ocean in piracy levels leading to the Indian Ocean high-risk area being reduced in 2021. At the beginning of 2023, on the 1st of January, the Indian Ocean high-risk area will be removed as this trend continues.
The main concern of removing the high-risk area is that it will invite piracy to return due to lax security efforts. This concern appears not to be the case, however.
Whilst Operation ATALANTA and its supporting missions by the EU are ending in the region, other nations are keeping up anti-piracy operations. For example, India and China have yet to indicate that they will end anti-piracy operations in the area. China recently sent its 42nd fleet for an anti-piracy rotation to the region, demonstrating that it will continue its efforts for some time.
Furthermore, Brazil, at the head of CTF 151 with the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), announced they would still patrol the area despite the removal of the HRA. These actions show that not all international community members will give up on policing international waters.
Despite this, the domestic situation in Somalia, the main driver of piracy, remains uneasy. Al-Shabab remains a pertinent threat, a nd food shortages are still a problem exacerbated by the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. The country faces its worst famine in over half a century, and over 2 million Somalians are internally displaced.
Sexual violence, violence against children and attacks on civilians from terrorists and government forces have reportedly occurred. People may still turn to piracy in the hopes of a better life and may be more motivated to do so if security in the waters surrounding Somalia is reduced.
However, the international community must give more trust to the local authorities to handle their security as well. With Operation ATALANTA's supporting missions of the EU Training, Mentoring and Advising mission and the EU Capacity Building mission, training, guidance and equipment were given to local Somali forces. Over a decade of support has been given to nations like Somalia, and the international community must provide trust for these nations to handle their regional security.
"The domestic situation in Somalia, the main driver of piracy, remains uneasy. Al-Shabab remains a pertinent threat, and food shortages are still a problem exacerbated by the ongoing crisis in Ukraine".
Overall, removing the Indian Ocean high-risk area is a positive step for maritime security, indicating the success of anti-piracy operations by the international community. Whilst concerns are justified due to the internal conditions of Somalia, international forces cannot be present indefinitely.
The entire presence of international forces is not being withdrawn, and more trust is being given to regional security forces. From this period, the international community can gauge the success of their support mechanisms to local forces and provide them with a chance to run their regional affairs. Ships in the area will still be advised to follow BMP 5 measures.