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High Risk Area Removal to Affect Routes

Effective 01 January 2023 at 0001 UTC, the Indian Ocean High Risk Area (HRA) will be removed, as agreed by the International Chamber of Shipping, BIMCO, International Marine Contractors Association, INTERCARGO, INTERTANKO, and Oil Companies International Marine Forum.  The International Maritime Organization (IMO) was notified of the decision on 22 August, and it is expected to be officially announced at the next Maritime Safety Committee, scheduled for 31 October. 

Image 1.  Indian Ocean HRA’s as of May 2019 (green) and since September 2021 (red), courtesy of Dryad Global.

HRA History

  • The HRA was implemented in 2010 at the height of the Somali Piracy threat.
  • 237 piracy incidents were recorded in the region in 2011 alone, with 557 total recorded from 2010 to 2014.
  • Until 2015, the HRA covered most of the western half of the Indian Ocean north of Madagascar
  • With efforts from military, political, civil society and shipping industry groups, piracy incidents fell to only 14 recorded 2015 to 2020, with none after 2017.
  • The HRA reduced in size significantly in 2015, 2019, and 2021

Although the HRA will be removed, several other Indian Ocean safety implementations will remain. The Voluntary Reporting Area (VRA) operated by the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) will remain unchanged. Likewise, due to conflict in Yemen, the International Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC), and thus the Maritime Security Transit Corridor (MSTC), will continue to be the recommended shipping lanes when transiting the Gulf of Aden and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.

Image 2.  Gulf of Aden Maritime Chart, highlighting the Maritime Security Transit Corridor, courtesy CMF

Impact on Savings

The lifting of the HRA is expected to allow for more direct routes which will pass closer to the Somali Coast. This will have the greatest impact on routes to and from Southern Africa, in particular routes involving the Mozambique Channel, that approach or transit the Gulf of Aden. Beginning 2023, routes in this region may be able to save significant cost and emissions, not just due to lower security cost and slower steaming possible, but also due to less overall distance in some situations.

For example, on a route from Durban to Suez, we estimate about 466 nm savings potential, compared to avoiding the present HRA.

Image 3.  Two shipping routes from Durban to Suez. The route that stretches further east is the current most direct route for any vessel travelling around the current HRA. The second route is a hypothetical route once the HRA is lifted, transiting much closer to the east African coast, while maintaining the use of the MSTC.

For an Aframax Tanker steaming at 12 knots, this could translate to over 38 steaming hours and over 47 MT of fuel, as well as over 151 MT of total emissions.  Assuming LSFO, at present bunker price at time of this writing, over 38,000 USD would be saved.  This would also result in an estimated over 50,000 USD hire savings.  Total cost savings would be over 88,000 USD!

Table 1.  Estimated route savings, Durban to Suez, due to HRA elimination in 2023 and subsequent potential distance reduction( assuming 12 knots steamed, neutral weather and currents, and hire/bunker rates at time of writing.)

Further, these figures do not factor in weather and currents so during the Southwest Monsoon, these savings may be compounded since less of the voyage would be spent steaming against adverse weather and currents.

Although the HRA will be lifted due to greatly reduced risk of piracy, authorities warn that Somali pirates retain the capacity to carry out attacks, and advise all merchant ships to continue to comply with recommendations and to remain alert. Stay connected and safe.

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