Progress in HRA controversy: CGPCS participants agree on process

On the 13th of March an extra-ordinary meeting of the CGPCS was held to address the issue of the revision of the High Risk Area (HRA). With the decline of the number of successful and attempted piracy incidents since 2012, the extent and scope of the HRA has increasingly become controversial. This notably concerns whether the territorial waters and EEZ’ of the Western Indian Ocean littorals should be considered part of the HRA. The HRA is a vital component in the counter-piracy architecture and important to coordinate naval activities as well as organize the relation between navies and shipping companies. The widely successful Best Management Practices 4 (BMP4) entail that vessels navigating through the area report to UKMTO.

Littoral states such as India find the scope of the HRA problematic given the economic pressure the zone puts on trade in the region, as well as the proliferation of small arms as a consequence of private security companies operating in the region. For the shipping associations (including ICS, INTERTANKO, BIMCO), revising the area comes too early. It would imply to revise the BMP4 (and print new manuals and charts), and might lead to a loss of awareness of shipping companies as well as a potential disengagement of naval actors. Both of these positions were re-iterated at the meeting held in Brussels.

During the meeting, the shipping associations made an innovative proposal. that is, to disentangle the broader HRA from the reporting area in the BMP4, and re-name this area as “Reporting Area”. Transcending the problem in such a way is not only about semantics, but to recognize that the HRA is actually not one space, but several, and used for different purposes (reporting, naval coordination, insurance). For the littorals this compromise proposal, however, did not go far enough. They called for a thorough revision of the HRA and the process by which decisions on the current or future HRAs are made. Littoral States question the authority of the industry to make such decisions through self-regulation without appropriate consultation with governments.

The meeting however had a tangible outcome. Facilitated by the acting chairman, the European External Action Service, the agreement reached at the meeting was to initiate a process by which the HRA could be revised. The basis for this process is a “threat assessment” that the “big three” naval missions (EUNAVFOR, NATO, CMF) will conduct until the next CGPCS plenary meeting in New York in July 2015. On this basis the industry will then conduct a risk assessment. If this process is not a “solution” or end of the controversy, it ensures that the debate moves on. It ensures that the controversy does not become frozen and that the CGPCS remains the forum in which agreements between the various stakeholders are reached.

The full statement that reflects the outcomes of the meeting will be published on in due course.


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