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West Africa HRA

by Bao Phan | Senior Operator


What does HRA mean in shipping ?

The High Risk Area, or HRA, is an area that is highly prone to pirate attacks and within which the use of armed guards and weapons are usually required.

West Africa HRA was designated as an HRA in 2012 by the International Bargaining Forum (IBF) due to the escalating number of pirate attacks off West Africa waters.

What is the HRA limit for West Africa waters ?

Unlike Indian Ocean HRA, where the boundaries are listed clearly by UKMTO and JWC, West Africa waters is a much more complex area, this is largely due to two main reasons:

  • The flexibility in which the Gulf of Guinea pirates operate, which makes it extremely difficult to pinpoint a precise area.
  • Limited resources, capabilities and cooperation between West African governments.

As a guidance, the area off the coasts of Ghana, Nigeria, Togo, Cameroon and Benin should be regarded as an area in which self-protective measures are required. As of 12 June 2014, the LMA Joint War Committee defines the following limits for the Gulf of Guinea:

    • The territorial waters of Benin, Togo and Nigeria, plus
    • Nigerian Exclusive Economic Zone north of latitude 3º N, plus
    • Beninese Exclusive Economic Zones north of latitude 3º N.
    • Togolese Exclusive Economic Zone north of latitude 3º N.

Despite the above limits, pirate attacks have occurred well outside, going as far West as Abidjan and as far South as Gabon. So unfortunately, proceeding outside the designated area does not always guarantee safety.

Below is a graphic depicting the limits for West Africa HRA more realistically by the Norwegian Maritime Authority:

Source: NIS/NOR Circular no. 01/2016 – MarSec Level Norwegian flagged vessels

Source: Oceans Beyond Piracy

So what does this mean for seafarers in the area?

Seafarers whose vessels are transiting West African HRA are given following benefits:

  • Bonus equal to basic wage, payable for the actual duration of stay/transit
  • Doubled compensations in case of death and disability
  • Seafarers remain the right to refuse sailing, with repatriation at company’s cost
  • Must be notified at least 30 days prior to entry if vessel on which he/she is due to work on is planned to pass the HRA
  • Increased security measures

West Africa remains a hotbed in piracy

According to the number of incidents reported in 2017, pirate attacks worldwide are at its lowest level in the last 20 years, however, West Africa waters remain an attack hot spot. In fact, there has been an increase in number of recorded incidents, from 180 in 2017 to 201 in 2018. Despite collaboration between countries in the region, as well as assistance from the US and France, West African piracy remains a problem without answer.