Reductions in HRA good news for shipping companies but could easily send a false signal to those eager to cut costs and relax their guard
A reduction of the BMP 4 High Risk Area (HRA) around the Gulf of Aden doesn't mean shipping companies should reduce their security presence on-board vessels in the Indian Ocean, international maritime security company MASTÂ has said today.
Gerry Northwood, COO of MAST and former Royal Navy counter-piracy commander, said: “Whilst this is a positive development for the maritime industry, it is vital that shipping companies operating in the Indian Ocean do not become complacent. It is extremely important not to erode the protection measures put in place to protect shipping, such as armed guards and the support of international navies, as these measures have made the Indian Ocean one of the safest oceans in the world for commercial shipping.”
“Political instability in Somalia and illegal fishing off its coast by a range of countries mean that a return to piracy by some of those worse affected is a real possibility. This latest development will certainly have the pirate investors watching for shipping companies relaxing their guard, or for any indication that the international maritime forces are drawing down their presence.”
Such a move, whilst decreasing the insurance costs of shipping firms operating in the Indian Ocean, could lead to vessels employing fewer and less professional armed guards to protect the crew and cargo, resulting in a potentially higher chance of attacks by opportunistic pirate gangs, MAST believes.
Northwood continued: “There is a risk that the less scrupulous Private Maritime Security Companies (PMSCs) will see this as an opportunity to reduce the pay for the guards. Already some guards are only fully paid when the vessel they are guarding is inside the HRA. With the reduction in HRA size, the consequent decline in pay will drive out the better Maritime Security Operatives (MSOs), thus resulting in a reduction of professional standards and increasing the risk to seafarers.”
The changes shall take effect from 1 December 2015 to give crews and shipping companies adequate time to prepare for the change.
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