‘The Territorial Waters and Maritime Zones (Amendment) Bill, 2021’ was passed in the Parliament on Sunday to make it a more time-befitting one so that the evolving issues can be dealt with properly.
The step to amend the law was taken aiming to ensure proper reflection of the international laws and the judgments in the cases involving the delimitation of maritime boundaries of Bangladesh. The fresh law will help establish sovereign right of the coastal state.
The law will bring the emerging economy under legal structure which will boost the Blue Economy, Ocean Governance, Maritime Cooperation and the matters relating to the methods and discipline of marine scientific research, and to utilize the plethora of oceanic resources across the Bay of Bengal.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen placed the Bill in the House which was passed by voice vote.
Experts said that this law will ensure the security of marine energy and marine resources from any threat.
According to the proposed law, maximum three years’ imprisonment or a fine of minimum Tk two crore and maximum Tk five crore will be imposed for marine pollution. The punishment was one-year imprisonment and Tk 5,000 fine in the old law, which was enacted in 1974.
The new law also includes the provision of punishment for offences in 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.
A total of 35 new sections have been incorporated in the fresh law, including the provision of criminal jurisdiction and civil jurisdiction in entry of foreign vessels and submarines into the maritime boundary of Bangladesh.
The Territorial Waters and Maritime Zones (Amendment) Act, 2021 defines Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle, Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, and Unmanned Underwater Vehicle. It extends the boundary of Contiguous Zone, which is a band of water extending further from the outer edge of the territorial sea to up to 24 nautical miles from the baseline to 24 miles from 18 miles.
The new law also discussed about the economic zone. As per the new law, the Economic Zone is replaced by Exclusive Economic Zone in line with the definition of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS-1982) in order to establish absolute sovereignty over the marine and its resources.
Under UNCLOS-1982, all coastal countries are granted sovereign right to a stretch of sea extending 200 nautical miles beyond their coast, which is known as an exclusive economic zone.
The UNCLOS, 1982 is termed the constitution for the law of the sea. This convention empowers the coastal states to enact law for the protection of maritime zones. Bangladesh is a signatory to this Convention.