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Boost for maritime as pirates keep off coast

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) recently removed the Indian Ocean from the list of High-Risk Areas (HRA) giving a major boost to trade for Kenya and the wider Eastern African region. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

Kenya did not report a single piracy attack last year in its Indian Ocean territory and transport corridor, an annual security report says.

The move is seen as a huge boost for Kenya's efforts to attract trade and tourism and make itself an international shipping and tourism hotspot. Increased safety will lower insurance and shipping costs in the Kenyan ocean transport corridor as well as boost the popular cruise tourism, experts say.

The newly released study dubbed the International Chamber of Commerce International Maritime Bureau Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships Report, captures data for the period between 1 January and 31 December 2022.

“This report provides an analysis of 115 global maritime piracy and armed robbery incidents reported to the International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre, from 1 January to 31 December 2022,” says the new report by the London-based agency.

Kenya did not record a single incident at a time regions such as South Asia in the Singapore straits recorded as many as 38 incidents. In the continent, Ghana and Angola recorded 7 and 5 incidents respectively becoming piracy hotspots. Bulk carriers were most affected followed by product tankers, says the report.

“From 1 January to 31 December 2022, no incident was reported to the IMB PRC”, says the report.

“The international navies patrolling these waters continue to coordinate and liaise with merchant and fishing fleets to identify and apprehend pirate action groups.”

The ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) is a specialised division of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). The IMB is a non-profit making organisation, established in 1981 to act as a focal point in the fight against all types of maritime crime and malpractice.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) says piracy consists of any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft.

Under the definitions of Piracy or Armed Robbery, the IMB PRC reports several incidents.

They include 'boarded' which is an illegal act of perpetrators successfully gaining access onto the vessel, and 'hijacked' which is an illegal act of perpetrators successfully gaining access onto the vessel and taking over control.

They also included 'capture Fired Upon' which is an illegal act of perpetrators discharging weapons towards the vessel while attempting to gain access to the vessel and 'attempted' which is an illegal act of perpetrators attempting to approach a vessel with the possible intention to board but remain unsuccessful due to the timely actions of the crew.

The possible consequences to the crew, vessel, or cargo, as a result of the illegal piracy acts include kidnap, hostage, death, threat and, assault.

Sometimes pirates damage vessels especially due to the discharge of weapons or stealing cargo.

At its height, between 2008 and 2012, it is estimated that Somali piracy cost the Kenyan shipping industry between $300 million (Sh37 billion) and $400 million (Sh49.6 billion) every year. This was as a result of increased costs (including insurance) and a decline in coastal tourism.

Analysts say shipping companies, which in the past used larger and more costly teams and took expensive steps such as rerouting vessels and traveling at greater speed, are expected to increasingly turn to smaller groups of armed personnel, cutting costs.

Somali pirates were increasingly attacking local fishermen and smaller craft, often hoping to use their vessels to attack larger ships.

At the height of Somali pirate attacks in 2011, up to a dozen or more merchant ships were being held captive at any one time, often for multimillion-dollar ransoms.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) recently removed the Indian Ocean from the list of High-Risk Areas (HRA) giving a major boost to trade for Kenya and the wider Eastern African region. 

The decision was communicated during the 106th session of the Maritime Safety Committee at the International Maritime Organization in London, the UN agency responsible for the safety and security of shipping, by the BMP-5, which consists of the five largest global shipping industry associations.

Withdrawal of Kenya from HRA took effect on January 1, 2023. This will allow ship owners and security providers to adjust operations.

Kenya’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organisation Manoah Esipisu, said Kenya was delighted with the decision as it will save businesses billions of shillings in insurance fees, thereby lowering the prices of goods in the country and the wider Eastern African region.