The critical maritime routes are the routes considered crucial to maritime trade, transport, fishing and other essential maritime activities. In recent years, a considerable escalation of pirate activities and acts of armed robbery at sea, in terms of geographical spread, number of incidents reported, level of violence against seafarers, period of detention and ransom payments has been reported.
As maritime transport represents by far the largest proportion by volume of world trade and around 90% of Europe’s global trade is transported by sea, the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Guinea and South East Asia are of strategic importance to Europe.
Potential risks for the coastal countries concerned are that external trade vessels might not enter major ports in the region, a negative impact on the tourism and fishery sector, an increase in oil prices, high shipping and insurance costs as well as environmental hazards.
In 2009, in response to worsening maritime security situation worldwide and following the objectives of the Indicative Programme 2009-2011 for the Instrument for Stability (IfS), the EU has set up the Critical Maritime Routes (CMR) programme to address the challenge of maritime security and safety in different regions, such as South East Asia, the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Guinea.