CGPCS (Contact Group on Piracy of the Coast of Somalia) meeting has concluded just two days back in New York. We have been talking about this issue of HRA ever since 2011 and as Commandant N.V. Ramarao (Indian Coast Guard) very correctly said that in 2012 when the last vessel MV Eglantine, which was almost 450 miles from Somalia and almost equally from the Indian coast. That happened when we were at the plenary session of the CGPCS in NY. We were making a very forceful intervention that this is not correct and there is even no piracy attack. The chair at the CGPCS on the sideline showed us the message that such thing had happened. There was positive intervention from the Iranians and the vessel was though hijacked could not be taken to Somalia. Since then we have had many meetings, we forced the authors of the BMP to several meetings. Most recent one was held in Brussels in February and that meeting was called in Brussels because the CGPCS chair is EU. That meeting was called at India’s intervention, a very forceful intervention by the Ministry of External Affairs. In that we also had a very important contribution from Egypt because it is not only India that is saying redraw the HRA from 78° to 65° but there are also other countries affected. Egypt had questioned the logic of including red sea in the HRA. We also had Oman saying that Oman Sea cannot be HRA. So there were many issues and in the Brussels meeting. 20 countries supported India’s view including Pakistan. But EU chair asked CGPCS in New York to take the decision. The last CGPCS (in Brussels Meeting) was asked to do threat assessment of piracy risk in that area and that assessment was to be taken as a key to take a decision whether to redraw or not to redraw. We questioned that when you actually expanded the HRA, what threat assessment did you do that time? There were no answers coming. It was more of political decision, not based definitely not on realities on the ground. There are definitely vested interests; there were people who wanted to keep this area as volatile and risky. So it took us long time, lots of efforts were made by Ministry of Shipping, Ministry of Defense, DG Shipping, lots of efforts, lots of lobbying with countries finally which has resulted into this process being renewed. In the 95th session of Maritime Safety Committee of IMO, concluded on 9th June, 2015 this issue was raised. Egypt raised this issue through a paper and India also intervened. IMO said though we are not the authors of the BPM but since the BMP has been endorsed by IMO through various circulars therefore IMO would advise the authors of the BMP to consider this aspect. So that was reflected in the 95th Maritime Safety Committee reports, in June 2015. India took it up very forcefully in the IMO Council Meeting where the Indian delegation was led by Additional Secretary Dr. Alok Srivastava. He made extremely forceful intervention. As result there is a paragraph included in IMO report highlighting the concerns of India; clearly stating that within three months time HRA has to be redrawn taking into consideration the IMO narrative that ‘area where the piracy attacks are not taken place but where the preventive measures are required and also the concerns of India, Egypt and Oman have to be taken into account. Within three months BMP had been directed by the CGPCS plenary to redefine HRA.
So this has been achieved due to the combined efforts of the Government of India including the industry. Industry has been giving us lot of information and in particular some information on the insurance part and 20000 ships that call Indian ports every year and there has been a very significant contribution of the industry in this entire fight. The additional war risk paid for these ships stood at $540 million per annum in 2010, which actually reduced in 2013 to $239 million. JWC, a committee which decides on the insurance issue also is saying that piracy has abated. This issue has been highlighted in various meetings and about 20 countries us in the recent meeting.
There are some other issues which were mentioned in the last session. One suggestion was that CDC should be given to army people. CDC is an identity document and it is not more than that and it is basically given to seafarers. Would giving CDC solve all problems? Everybody who wears olive green uniform be given CDC from the master’s office that is another one? Then the second part was regulating floating armories. I remember that under the aegis of our nautical officer we wrote a paper to IMO for regulation of floating armories especially when the case of MV Seaman Guard Ohio happened and this paper was very widely discussed in IMO in the 93rd session. But it did not find favor with the floor, not many people supported; everybody said it is a good idea. But question remained – how and why it has to be done? But my personal view if that in this last session in June Marshal Island proposed exactly the same cut and paste paper and that paper found support. It is evident that there are sufficient lobbies to have anything moving in the highly bureaucratic system and vested interest systems like UN bodies, you need lot of concerted lobbying and forceful continuity, which we lack. But now the though regarding floating armories is clear and it is now work in progress of the IMO itself.
I think India can only do effort in this subject through international participation that is participation in BMPs, participating in IMO sessions, CGPCS where these issues are discussed.
Capt. Harish Khatri joined the merchant navy as cadet in 1975 and sailed for over 22 years, of which he has been in command for 8 years on varied type of ships, including LPG tankers, oil tankers, container ships and multi-purpose ships. He has the distinction of being the first Master of India’s first LPG tanker. Capt. Khatri holds Extra master Certificate of Competency and PG Diploma in HRD. Capt. Khatri joined the Directorate General of Shipping in 1997 as Nautical Surveyor and continues to be in service of the DGS till date. During his service, he has represented India in several national and international forum such as IMO, ILO, CGPCS (under the aegis of UN) etc. He also has the distinction of setting up the new MMD office at Noida. At present, Capt Khatri holds the charge of being the nodal person for all maritime security matters including piracy and is also in-charge of shipping casualties section.