Re-Drawing the Lines of Piracy’s “High Risk Areas” in the Indian Ocean

Lines demarcating high-risk, pirate danger zones are being changed to reflect decreasing incidents in the Indian Ocean.

Piracy has a centuries’ old history alongside humanity’s maritime activities. It almost seems as if as soon as we were able to take to the waters with items of value for trade, travel or warfare, piracy has grown too. As early as 14th Century BC, for example, there have been recordings of pirate-type activities in the Aegean and Mediterranean – and we have not heard the last of them since. Over the next centuries they would give grief to mighty civilizations like the Roman Republic, and thrive in multiple waterways including territories in Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia.

That the phenomenon has been around for centuries and in different locales, in each of their own different styles, demonstrates how piracy is repeatedly able to evolve and survive with the changing times – eventually making its way into our own, modern period.

Piracy today is reflective of our times. With much of world trade finding its way into and out of countries via maritime shipping routes, the stakes are high – piracy not only endangers persons and property, it also affects national economies and makes the cost of doing business higher for private entities. This is why there are now plenty of means by which national and international stakeholders attempt to stop piracy, including the use of high technology, increased naval presence, and greater international cooperation via legal instruments as well as shared guidelines and best practices. Thankfully, many of these measures are bearing fruit.

Piracy is defined by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (“UNCLOS”) as constituting illegal acts of violence, detention or depredation, against ships, aircraft, persons or property on another ship or aircraft, on the high seas or outside of any State jurisdiction, done for private ends by crew or passengers in a private vessel. This includes voluntary participation in vessel operations while knowing it to be of pirate in nature, or inciting or facilitating such acts.

The risk of pirate attacks vary from place to place and time to time. There are, however, designated High Risk Areas (“HRA”), where pirate attacks and activities are known to have taken place, and where vigilance, quick action (including the possibility of altering course on short notice) and other measures of protection are advised. This October, it has been announced that changes are coming to the previously recognized HRA – it will be reduced in the Indian Ocean.

India’s west coast was included in the HRA in 2010, but with greater military naval presence in the region, there has since been a decline in piracy. This month’s announcement on the reduction of the HRA reflects that decline and hard campaigning by Indian advocates, and is a product of recent experience by the shipping industry, and consultation with governments and military naval forces. The change can be advantageous to companies aiming to lower insurance and freight costs for ships transiting in the affected areas, and will ultimately also be a plus for Indian consumers.

The reduction advisory will take effect in the next few months, but the importance of vigilance and compliance with established best practices, including risk assessments and voluntary reporting at designated zones, is still emphasized by authorities.

For more articles on security, and other themes relating to the maritime industry, explore Kemplon Engineering’s blog. We update frequently with news and issues of the day, as part of our commitment to meet the needs and interests of our marine and industrial customers.

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“E.U. Reduces High Risk Areas off Somalia.” The Maritime Executive, 09 Oct 2015. Web. 17 Oct 2015.

Fonseca, Joseph R. “Re-Drawal of High Risk Area in Indian Ocean.”, 11 Oct 2015. Web. 17 Oct 2015.

“History of Piracy.” Maritime Connector. Web. Accessed 17 Oct 2015.

International Maritime Organization. “Piracy and armed robbery against ships.” Web. Accessed 17 Oct 2015.

International Maritime Organization. “PIRACY AND ARMED ROBBERY AGAINST SHIPS IN WATERS OFF THE COAST OF SOMALIA, Best Management Practices for Protection against Somalia Based Piracy.”, 14 Sep 2011. Web. 17 Oct 2015.

“Size of High Risk Piracy Area in Indian Ocean Cut.” World Maritime News, 08 Oct 2015. Web. 17 Oct 2015.

Image “Jolly Roger” courtesy of James Barker at