High risk to ships in Indian ocean and red sea persists despite reduction of focus on area, MAST warns


  • One-year anniversary of High Risk Area reduction on Thursday 1 December 2016
  • Increased risk of attack in Indian Ocean caused by political instability in Somalia and Yemen
  • Recent attack on chemical tanker CPO Korea by pirates shows threat remains to vessels

Recent attacks on vessels passing through the Indian Ocean and Red Sea show that threats remain to commercial shipping in the area, a leading maritime risk management company has said today.

Thursday 1 December 2016 will mark the one-year anniversary since the reduction of the High Risk Area (HRA) in the western Indian Ocean, but recent incidents have shown that criminal activity in this historically dangerous shipping route is far from over, MAST has warned.

This comes at the same time as NATO's recent announcement that its counter piracy mission in the Indian Ocean is to end, with those naval resources being shifted to the Black Sea and Mediterranean.

Gerry Northwood OBE, COO of MAST and a former Royal Navy counter piracy commander, and the lead planner in EUNAVFOR when the Indian Ocean HRA was originally created, believes that recent events support the argument that criminality – pirates and terrorists – is still occurring in the area and vessels which relax their security procedures could be targeted.

Recent incidents include:

  • An attack on a chemical tanker 300 miles off Somalia, recently classified as a pirate attack;
  • An attempted attack on an LNG tanker in the Bab-el-Mandab strait;
  • Missile attacks on a UAE supply vessel and U.S. Navy warships off the coast of Yemen by Houthi rebels.

This succession of incidents is evidence that the generally unstable situation in both Somalia and Yemen is spilling over into the maritime environment. Consequently, commercial and private shipping, and seafarers could be under threat yet again.

Gerry Northwood OBE, COO of MAST, said:

“Last year's reduction of the High Risk Area in the Indian Ocean was welcomed by many in the shipping industry as the last successful Somali pirate attack on a western commercial vessel was in May 2012. However recent incidents have shown that this vital shipping route is under threat from pirates and terrorists and NATO's withdrawal, while from the best of motives, may send the wrong message to shipping companies and their crews.

“Right now the international community is struggling to demonstrate real progress in developing Somalia politically and economically; we have seen a pirate attack in the Somali basin and terrorist activity against warships and commercial vessels in the southern Red Sea. NATO's withdrawal will provide succour to those who mean seafarers harm in the Indian Ocean region.”


MAST is a leading global security provider with the expertise and capability to provide comprehensive security advice, including the delivery of intelligence information, physical security solutions and technology.

MAST is without doubt one of the pioneers in the maritime security industry, having been at the heart of development of the legal and operational standards that now allow clients to engage security services in the marine sector with confidence.

With headquarters in the UK and a global presence, the company has the resources and the reach to provide clients with a complete solution. For more information please visit our website: https://www.mast-security.com/

Follow MAST_security on Twitter for real time information on global security developments.

Media contacts

Dan Williams, Rostrum – dan.williams@rostrumpr.com; 0203 727 3740
Gaby Bryson, Rostrum – gabriella@rostrumpr.com; 0203 727 3757

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