India becomes co-chair of Working Group on Maritime Situational Awareness 

New Delhi. 04 June 2016. The 19th Plenary Session of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) took place in Mahe, Seychelles during 31 May – 3 June 2016. India was chosen to co-chair the important Working Group on Improving Maritime Situational Awareness (MSA) in the Region through consensus. The session was chaired by Mr. Joel Morgan, the Foreign Minister of the Seychelles and more than 60 countries and organisations participated in the four-day meeting.

Seychelles is the current chairman of the CGPCS for the biennium 2016-17. An Indian Delegation led by the Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping and comprising of officers of the Indian Navy, Ministry of External Affairs and Directorate General of Shipping represented India in this important meeting that discussed the actions taken and their results in combating piracy in the Indian Ocean across the coast of Somalia.

It may be recalled that the CGPCS was set up as a group of interested and affected nations, industry associations and multilateral agencies to take pro-active steps for checking piracy in the Indian Ocean region through a UN Security Council resolution. In its 7 year of working the Contact Group has been able to effectively deal with the issues relating to piracy off the coast of Somalia. The CGPCS has been spearheading its efforts through four Working Groups (WGs) focused on Capacity Building on legal, judicial framework and processes, and poverty alleviation in Somalia, Improving Maritime Situational Awareness in Indian Ocean Region and coordinating efforts for Disrupting Piracy Networks.

The Indian Navy and Coast Guard have played a very important role by enhanced patrolling in the high seas and providing armed naval escorts to ships moving in the area. Other countries and organisations such as EU, US-led Combined Maritime Forces, NATO, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea have also significantly contributed to increased alertness and patrolling in the region due to which the piracy problem has been largely contained. To protect Indian ships and Indian citizens employed in sea-faring duties, Indian Navy commenced anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden from 23 October 2008. In addition to escorting Indian-flagged ships, ships of other countries have also been escorted by the Indian Navy.

Merchant ships are currently being escorted along the entire length (490 nm long and 20 nm wide) of the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) which is heavily patrolled by Indian Navy vessels. According to information received more than 25 IN ships are deployed for patrolling, escorting ships and in anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden. To maintain high degree of alertness in the region, around 19 coastal security operations and exercises have been undertaken over the past year.

During the height of piracy all the ships calling on and leaving Indian ports passing through the High Risk Area (HRA), which was drawn at the Indian Ocean area west of 78 degrees E longitude and therefore which affected almost 22000 ships calling on and leaving from Indian ports, to pay an additional premium to insurance companies most of whom were based outside India. It is estimated that this premium, called Additional War Risk Premium (AWRP) amounted to around Rupees 8500 crores during the years 2010 to 2015. This premium amount was added in the overall freight charges and therefore the Indian consumer had to bear the burden of this extra premium amount.

Therefore, the Ministry of Shipping took up the issue of redrawal of the High Risk Area Line back to 65 Degrees E (from 78 deg E) in the International Maritime Organization and CGPCS in 2015 and as a result the HRA was redrawn at 65 deg E. Thereby the ships coming to or leaving Indian ports do not have to pay AWRP now.

Thus India’s taking over as co-chair of Working Group on Maritime Situational Awareness is in recognition of its pro-active role in combating the problem of piracy off the Somalian Coast and in the Indian Ocean Region.