Kenya’s Indian Ocean waters removed from high-risk area category as piracy declines

Kenya’s maritime waters in the Indian Ocean have been reclassified from high-risk areas (HRA) by the global shipping industry, a move that will save the country and East Africa region millions of dollars in insurance and security expenses, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday.

“The decision by the BMP-5 has been communicated to the London-based 174-member International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations (UN) agency responsible for improving the safety and security of global shipping,” the ministry said in a statement issued in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.

It said the move followed a heightened campaign by Kenya to end labeling of its waters as high risk, which made shipping prohibitively expensive and threatened the nascent blue economy.

Kenyan maritime waters were designated as HRA in 2009 by BMP-5, which comprise five largest global shipping industry associations, namely International Association of Dry Cargo Ship Owners (Intercargo), International Association of Independent Tank Owners, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) and Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO).

This followed increased incidents of piracy in the Indian Ocean, including in Kenyan maritime waters.

The ministry said the consequence of that designation was an increase in maritime insurance premium for cargo destined for the port of Mombasa, as well as increased labor cost for seafarers aboard such ships due to the high risk of piracy attacks.

Cargo ships destined for Mombasa also took longer routes, beyond 300 nautical miles from the Indian Ocean coastline, to avoid encountering pirates, while other cargo ships hired private security aboard their ships for increased protection, it said.

Increased surveillance and joint maritime patrols by the Kenya Coast Guard Services and the Kenya Navy, however, have resulted in a significant reduction in piracy incidents, with no piracy incidents recorded since 2017, said Kenyan authorities.

“Kenya lauds the BMP-5 for their decision and cooperation during the intense engagements which resulted in re-designation of Kenya maritime waters to reflect improved security. This decision frees Kenya from what had become a major restriction to the shipping industry, it also frees the rest of East Africa, and drastically lowers costs of supplies from all over the world,” said the ministry.

The ministry observed that Kenya remains aware of security challenges in the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden and will remain vigilant and continue working with other security players in the region such as EUNAVFOR Atalanta, the EU anti-piracy task force, to prevent the re-emergence of piracy within the region.

Regional countries such as Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan that depend on the port of Mombasa for both their exports and imports will also benefit from a reduction of maritime insurance, thereby resulting in increased competitiveness of their products.

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