Bangladesh’s sovereignty over the maritime boundary to be established, the law amended

The Territorial Waters and Maritime Zones (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was passed in Parliament on Sunday to make it a more time-befitting one so that the evolving issues can be dealt with properly.

The proposed law will establish Bangladesh’s sovereignty over its maritime boundary, which will facilitate the search and extraction of marine resources.

Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen moved the Bill and it was passed by voice vote.

The Bill proposed maximum three-year imprisonment or a monetary fine of minimum Tk2 crore and a maximum of Tk5 crore or both for maritime pollution.

The punishment was one-year imprisonment and a Tk5,000 fine in the old law, enacted in 1974.

The new draft also includes a provision for the punishment for offences in any exclusive economic zone, continental shelf and contiguous zone.

The provisions of video, photo, electronic records have also been included as evidence in proving the offences and incidents in the sea as the witness to most offences are not found in the alien nature of crimes.

Thirty-five new sections have been incorporated in the proposed law, including the provision of criminal jurisdiction and civil jurisdiction in the entry of foreign vessels and submarines into Bangladesh maritime boundary.

It defines Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle, Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, and Unmanned Underwater Vehicle.

The Bill extended the boundary of the contiguous zone, which is a band of water extending farther from the outer edge of the territorial sea to up to 24 nautical miles from the baseline to 24 miles from 18 miles.

The ‘Economic Zone’ is replaced by the ‘Exclusive Economic Zone’. This has been done in line with the definition of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to establish absolute sovereignty over the marine boundary and its assets.

Under the UNCLOS-1982, all coastal countries are granted the sovereign right to a stretch of the sea extending 200 nautical miles beyond their coast, which is known as an exclusive economic zone.