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24 January, 2019 00:00 00 AM

New ocean governance law soon

Deepak Acharjee, Dhaka
New ocean governance law soon

After coming to power for the fourth time, the Awami Leaque-led Grand Alliance government is going to enact the Bangladesh Marine Zone Act, 2019 to declare and determine maritime zones and suppress piracy, armed robbery, and theft, and make provisions for punishment.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has prepared a draft of the Bangladesh Marine Zone Act, 2019 and the ministry has taken the opinion of ministries and divisions, sources concerned in the ministry said. At present, the foreign ministry is finalising the draft act for placing it before the cabinet meeting soon, seeking its approval, according to the sources.

Rear Admiral (retd) M. Khurshed Alam, secretary (Maritime Affairs Unit) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told The Independent that they are enacting a new law reviewing the old one enacted in 1974 to safeguard resources and interests in the maritime areas.

“It will be a full fledged law and would also help protect rights on the maritime resources. An action plan has been prepared for the use of the added 1,18,813 square kilometers of waters comprising territorial sea and exclusive economic zone extending out to 200 nautical mile (NM) across sizable areas to explore and exploit marine resources to boost the country's blue economy. We are hoping that we will be able to place the draft Bangladesh Marine Zone Act, 2019 before the cabinet soon,” he added.

According to the draft act, "Ocean governance refers to managing and using the oceans and their resources in ways that keep our oceans healthy, productive, safe, secure and resilient. It shall help Bangladesh in building capacity, specially developing human capital. Human capital, with expertise, sufficient knowledge and understanding of ocean governance, in turn will play their parts to take necessary actions and advise strategic directions to the stakeholders.”

About the benefits of blue economy from marine resources, the draft act says: “The Blue Economy comprises economic activities that directly or indirectly take place in the seas, oceans and coastal waters using sea/oceanic resources; exploration and exploitation of ocean resources in a sustainable manner, appropriate use of ocean and coastal waters, use of ocean products as main input, making provision of goods and services to support activities of the oceans and seas and protection of ocean environment.”

On maritime terrorism at sea, the draft act said that unless the context otherwise requires, offences with regard to "Maritime Terrorism at sea" refers to: any person commits an offence if that person unlawfully and intentionally seizes or exercises control over a ship by force or threat thereof or any other form of intimidation; or performs an act of violence against a person on board a ship if that act is likely to endanger the safe navigation of that ship; or destroys a ship or causes damage to a ship or to its cargo which is likely to endanger the safe navigation of that ship; or places or causes to be placed on a ship, by any means whatsoever, a device or substance which is likely to destroy that ship, or cause damage to that ship or its cargo which endangers or is likely to endanger the safe navigation of that ship; or destroys or seriously damages maritime navigational facilities or seriously interferes with their operation, if any such act is likely to endanger the safe navigation of a ship; or communicates information which he knows to be false, thereby endangering the safe navigation of a ship.

The draft act also suggested forming of a maritime zones tribunal for the purpose of providing speedy trial of offences under this section. The government shall, by notification, specify one or more Court of Session to be the maritime zones tribunal for the purposes of trial of piracy, armed robbery and maritime terrorism and unlawful acts against safety of navigation related offences.

In the draft act, the authorities concerned clarified the territorial sea. It says, the territorial sea comprises areas of the sea having defined not exceeding 12 Nautical Miles (NM) from the nearest base points of the Territorial Sea baseline (TSB) and normal baselines, measured seaward from the TSB.

The draft act says that a master of a foreign vessel shall not store, transport or permit to store or transport any nuclear or other inherently dangerous or noxious substances, harmful substances and hazardous wastes in the internal waters and territorial sea except with the prior permission of the government.

The draft act will allow criminal jurisdiction on board a foreign ship if needed. “The criminal jurisdiction of Bangladesh should only be exercised on board a foreign ship passing through the territorial sea to arrest any person or to conduct any investigation in connection with any crime committed on board the ship during its passage in the following cases: if the consequences of the crime affect Rights of Laying Submarine Cables and Pipelines.

About the contiguous zone, the  draft act says, the contiguous zone refers to an area seaward of the territorial sea in which Bangladesh may exercise the control necessary to prevent or punish infringement of its customs, fiscal, immigration and sanitary laws and regulations that occur within its territory or territorial sea. “The Contiguous zone” of Bangladesh may not extend beyond 24 NM from the territorial sea baselines.

The draft act says, the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Bangladesh comprises an area of the sea beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea extending to a line every point of which is at a distance of 200NM from the nearest points of territorial sea baselines/ normal baseline of the nearest coastline.

According to the draft act, maritime law enforcement actions mean assertion of jurisdiction over the vessel or aircraft in the maritime zones of Bangladesh.

“Sunken warships and military aircraft, and other sunken government ships operated for non-commercial purposes, shall be recognized as the properties of Bangladesh,” the draft act said.


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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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