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Maritime risk analysis: New layers of insight

MariTrace, 11 May 2023


The purpose of designating maritime risk areas is primarily to help onboard crew navigate safely through areas of increased maritime security risk: ship owners and operators are required to consider the safety of their crew, cargo and vessel, in accordance with SOLAS Ch V Reg 34 (Safe Navigation and Avoidance of Dangerous Situations) . The other major reason for identifying areas of ocean and territorial waters that carry risk is for calculating insurance premiums. In June 2019, war risk premiums surged in response to a series of attacks on tankers in the Straits of Hormuz: given the similar events of April and May 2023 we may expect another increase in 2023.

The MariTrace platform provides rich data and overlays for navigating maritime risk

Who designates risk areas and why?

Risk areas are defined, monitored and patrolled by a variety of multinational and national actors including:

Risk areas are typically demarcated where there is evidence for physical risks to vessels (piracy, acts of terrorism, mine warfare, blockades), or indicators that an area may be a hotspot for maritime crime (e.g. illegal unreported and unregulated fishing, smuggling) and vessel obfuscation (e.g. GPS jamming, AIS spoofing) - suggesting illicit activity (e.g. ship-to-ship transfers, sanctions evasion). Risk areas generally fall in one of three categories: High Risk Areas (HRA), Voluntary Reporting Areas (VRA) and War Risk Listed Areas (WRA), each with varying reporting obligations for ships and their owners.


In the MariTrace Platform, we show data and overlays for areas that carry physical risk to vessels. Our subscribed users can view data on incidents of piracy and overlay heatmaps of piracy and conflict data over time, to assess trends in regional risk. Users can also access rich data on the movements and locations of vessels that are included on global sanctions lists, for example the 737 vessels currently listed on the US OFAC sanctions list and the UNSC designated vessels list. While it’s important to note that sanctioned vessels routinely change name and flag, historical timeline data in the MariTrace platform can help analysts trace vessel history and movements.


ADMIRALTY Maritime Security Charts


The UK Hydrographic Office provides Maritime Security Charts for six areas worldwide.


Maritime Security Transit Corridor (MTSC)

In 2017, the CMF established a security corridor comprising the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC), the BAM TSS and the TSS West of the Hanish Islands and a two-way route directly connecting the IRTC and the BAM TSS.



The EU’s efforts to secure critical maritime routes were expanded to the Indo Pacific in May 2020. In May 2023 the US and the Philippines confirmed further bilateral strategic cooperation to secure their shared interests and NATO will open its first liaison office in Asia, in 2024. But complex, overlapping and unresolved maritime boundary disputes make it unlikely that a formalised security corridor, like the MTSC, would similarly be introduced in south east Asia and the South China Sea.



JWC Listed Areas

The JWC maintains details of Listed Areas – i.e. locations where ship owners are required to notify underwriters of any planned or actual voyages. The Indian Ocean HRA was officially rescinded in January 2023, but this change does not necessarily imply a reduced risk to vessels transiting the area. We continue to include the HRA on the MariTrace platform for information purposes only.



Gulf of Guinea


The GoGIN+ project (Gulf of Guinea Inter-regional Network – Extension), financed by the European Union, is a direct extension of the GoGIN project, which ran from 2016 to 2021 with the objective of contributing to maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea, supporting the region’s blue economy and shared economic development. As a high risk area for piracy, the Gulf of Guinea draws special attention from risk analysts and insurers. The coastal space comprises five operational maritime zones where activities are coordinated by five Maritime Multinational Coordination Centres (MMCC). Subscribed clients to MariTrace can now view these areas as an overlay in the MariTrace platform.


IBF Areas

The IBF maintains a list of Warlike Operations Areas & High Risk Areas, currently covering 13 locations. These areas are indicated in the MariTrace platform.


Who uses risk area data and why?


Risks to commercial shipping are indirectly affected by conflict and violence on land – whether it’s port closure due to civil unrest, commercial vessels caught in the cross-fire of a drone strike or low-level, persistent background threat from acts of piracy that arise through inter-state rivalries. The insurance market is affected, too. To help our clients navigate these risks, we include data on global political violence and conflict events (sourced from Armed Conflict Location & Event Data (ACLED)), available to subscribed users directly via the MariTrace platform.


In their 2022 review, the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) reported an increase in global marine insurance premiums from 2020 – 2021 (with generally benign claims impact across cargo and hull markets). The figures for 2020-21 were helped by increased global trade volumes, a strong US dollar, increased offshore activity and higher vessel values: data for 2021-22 is likely to look very different as war in Ukraine raised insurance costs and reshaped global oil markets. Traditionally, the oil trade relied on state-owned vessels that were could be traced from origin to destination. Today’s world is a complex network of ownership and identity, allowing for sanctions evaders to switch among multiple fleets, company structures and identities. And sanctions evaders tend to attract opportunists, creating hotspots for illicit activities.


A growing range of customers outside of the traditional maritime space are turning to verified data solutions to help conduct due diligence, analyse risk, trace unaccounted-for assets or assess claims. With increasing attention to threats and risks generated by the existence of grey markets, ghost trades and the spread of misinformation, contextualized high-quality data about threats and risks is a vital component of business intelligence.


To find out how MariTrace can serve your risk analysis and KYC requirements, contact us for a guided demo of our latest features and capabilities.


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