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Piracy:Kenya removed from high risk list, expert warns case could trigger insecurity

By Patrick Vidija | September 9th 2021

MV Faina when it was released by Pirates in 2015.[File, Standard]

Kenya has welcomed a move by the global shipping industry to remove it from the high-risk list.

Foreign Affairs CS Raychelle Omamo has said the move is a great boost to trade.

In a statement on Thursday, Omamo said the redesignation of Kenya’s Maritime waters in the Indian Ocean will save the country and East Africa millions of dollars in insurance and security expenses.

The decision by the BMP-5 has been communicated to the London-based 174-member International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the United Nations (UN) agency responsible for improving the safety and security of global shipping.

Omamo said the announcement followed a heightened campaign by Kenya to end labelling of Kenyan waters as high risk, which made shipping prohibitively expensive and threatened the nascent blue economy.

Kenyan maritime waters were designated as High-Risk Area in 2009 by BMP-5, which comprise five largest global shipping industry associations including the International Association of Dry Cargo Ship Owners (INTERCARGO), International Association of Independent Tank Owners (INTERTANKO), 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.

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

She said 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.

“However, increased surveillance and joint maritime patrols by the Kenya Coast Guard Services and the Kenya Navy within the Kenyan maritime waters have resulted in a significant reduction in piracy incidents, with no piracy incidents recorded since 2017,” she said.

She said, as a result, Kenya lauds the BMP-5 for their decision and cooperation during the intense engagements which resulted in the 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,” she said.

She said although Kenya remains aware of security challenges in the Horn of Africa region and the Gulf of Aden, it will remain vigilant and continue working with other security players in the region such as EUNAVFOR Atlanta, to prevent re-emergence of piracy within the region.

She added that Kenya will be involved in the next steps to develop a more dynamic threat assessment process to benefit the Shipping industry globally.

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

Chairman, The Horn International Institute for Strategic Studies Dr Mustafa Ali told The Standard that redesignating the Maritime Waters within the Indian Ocean will significantly boost confidence, reduce insurance costs and therefore reassure many maritime business companies. This will boost trading in the Western Indian Ocean Rim.

This, he said means that Kenya will benefit greatly from the improved security and reassurance. 

“Kenya is part of the Indian Ocean Rim and is successful when other Nations in this area collaborate,” he said.

He said this can be attributed to the fact that Kenya has stepped up maritime security including patrols after rejuvenating its Navy and setting up of the Coast Guard.

Mustafa however pointed out that Somalia still presents a huge challenge to Kenya's quest to transform the entire region into a peaceful and more stable arena for business to thrive.

“Kenya's maritime case with Somalia remains a thorn and could trigger more insecurity in the region. The two countries should resolve the issues bilaterally,” he said.

Mustafa said having a case at the ICJ will not resolve security issues around the region nor the Maritime dispute and conflict.

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