ITLOS verdict and maritime security of Bangladesh
The landmark verdict at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg established legal territorial rights of Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal. The court sustained Bangladesh's claim to settle maritime boundary with Myanmar. The verdict cannot be appealed against and has become effective immediately. It is expected that the dispute with India over maritime boundaries will also be settled by 2014.
The first obstacle in uninterrupted economic use of sea resources is over. The next step is how best resources at sea can be utilised and protected. All the activities at sea demand safe environment and the people involved with those activities need some sort of security. Maritime security means ensuring of full control over our sea area and the activities carried out there.
The navy is considered as the leading maritime force in a country. The Daily Star on March 17 referred to defence experts who emphasised that the establishment of full control over its maritime boundary would require Bangladesh to bolster its naval capacity. Almost all the countries of the world maintain a navy for these purposes and Bangladesh is no exception. However, in furtherance of ensuring effective maritime security, Bangladesh Navy must be able to coordinate with other maritime forces, which include coast guards and other government agencies charged with sovereignty, security, law enforcement and constabulary functions at sea.
Maritime security is a multi-disciplinary concept that involves military science, police science, domestic and international laws, and geopolitics of the area concerned. The importance of maritime security cannot be overemphasised because it affects territorial integrity, human security and economic prosperity.
The ambit of maritime security is very wide and covers many aspects. Maritime security challenges of the 21st century include maritime territorial disputes, inter-state conflicts, piracy, maritime terrorism, illegal weapons trade, human smuggling, maritime pollution, protection of sea lines of communication, sea borne trade, drug trafficking, gun-running, accidents , mining by non-state actors, maritime cooperation, preservation of living and non-living resources, maritime search and rescue (SAR), natural disasters, climate change etc.
Economically and strategically Bangladesh remains a maritime nation, mostly dependent on what happens at and from the sea. The maritime domain is the most promising way for Bangladesh to pursue its national interests of "wellbeing of the nation." Bangladesh is open to the Bay of Bengal in the south. This brings both advantages and difficulties.
Given the current global and regional security environment, comprehensive maritime security is required. It includes Bangladesh ports, shipping, fishing, off-shore oil and gas facilities and shipping lanes in Bangladesh waters. This needs not only Bangladesh national measures but also a concerted effort among littoral coastal states, landlocked states, flag states and maritime industry partners.
Maritime space belonging to Bangladesh has to be secured from military and non-military threats. The mechanisms often employed include physical security measures, naval operations, crisis management, intelligence gathering, and risk management. Preventive and protective measures against infringement of maritime boundaries and security incidents affecting ships, offshore resources, crews, cargoes, port facilities and the people who work in sea areas surely demands concerted efforts by many maritime authorities besides the navy.
A comprehensive approach to maritime security certainly demands a central national organisation to deal with the matters. Such an organization -- for example, "Maritime Security Authority (MSA)" or "Maritime Security Center (MSC)" -- would co-ordinate all activities related to detection and prevention of security threats emanating from the sea. The purpose of MSA or MSC would be to promote cooperation amongst various maritime enforcement agencies so they can act together to fight threats to the maritime community and act as liaison between law enforcement agencies, maritime community and government. The associate members would include representatives from concerned ministries, enforcement agencies, public sector maritime agencies and private sector maritime communities.
Besides national efforts, regional or global cooperation is also necessary to ensure maritime security, in particular against transnational non-military threats. All nations demonstrate a clear awareness of the importance of maritime security in the 21st century. Threats emanating from the maritime domain affect all nations and require collective efforts to effectively counter them. MSA or MSC may also implement the task of promoting further regional cooperation and enhance the effectiveness of such cooperation.
In order to advance the security of Bangladeshi and the international maritime community, and for ensuring safe, secure and clean seas, an organisation like MSA/ MSC is now a need of the time.