The Territorial Waters and Maritime Zones (Amendment) Act, 2021 was placed in Parliament on Thursday to make it a more time-befitting one so that evolving issues can be dealt with properly.
The proposed law will establish Bangladesh’s sovereignty over its maritime boundary which will facilitate search and extraction of marine resources.
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen initiated the Bill and it was sent to the respective Parliamentary Standing Committee for deeper scrutiny. The Committee was asked to submit its report within 45 days.
The old law, which was enacted in 1974, has to be amended amid the evolving situation.
The Bill proposed maximum three years’ imprisonment or a monetary fine of minimum Tk 2 crore and maximum Tk 5 crore for maritime pollution.
The punishment was one-year imprisonment and Tk 5,000 fine in the old law.
The new draft also includes a provision for the punishment for offences in 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 of most of the offences are not found in 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 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 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 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to establish absolute sovereignty over the marine boundary and its assets.
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.