May 25, 2024, 8:27 pm

Maritime Piracy in BD: A Ticking Bomb already

  • Update Time : Saturday, May 11, 2024
  • 9 Time View

If anyone delves deep into the historical legacies of Bangladesh, then it can be explicitly seen that the Bengalis carry legacies of being boat-makers, traders, seafarers and these are etched deep into the culture too. However, keeping the historical legacy in mind, when the question comes about the protection that is offered within the purview of Maritime laws in Bangladesh and the protective measures that stems from the laws, one will fail to see much of a development in this regard. Bangladesh is a coastal country and hence it heavily relies on its multifarious water bodies and its maritime resources for important essentials like trade, economic and financial growth and due to the increasing threat of maritime piracy, different challenges are posing a huge risk to the country’s economic stability and security at present. As envisaged by the United States Naval Operations Concept (2010), in order to ensure maritime security, certain factors must be taken into account and they are namely, cyber attack, disruption to trade, terrorism, trafficking and smuggling of persons using the sea as a portal, illicit trafficking of narcotics and the like.

If the aforementioned factors are taken into consideration, Bangladesh is facing some major backlash in the form of infringement of maritime security due to the country being a target of facing colossal amount of barriers and challenges from non state actors, transnational forces and various states scattered all over the world. There is the evident geo political rivalry of the major states like China, India, Japan where they have an increasing interest and influence in the Bay of Bengal as one of them if chronologically followed, share maritime cooperation and connectivity with the Bengal through trade and the other is undertaking a serious modernisation drive for its navy and is also tirelessly trying to enhance both the bilateral and multilateral ties in the Bengal. And some recent analysis has also shed light on this that now even Japan is intending to become a key player in the same region which is the Bengal. An enormous power rivalry is stemming from the issue that these countries share a common keen interest and shares strong ties with the Bengal due to their own private interests and hence the country’s maritime security is put at great risk.

Bangladesh’s 90% of export is massively reliant on sea trade specifically and also statistically, 100% of the energy requirements are also transported using the sea as the medium. Crimes like petty theft, armed robbery and piracy are the most detrimental and also the more common type of crimes that remains to be a major concern for Bangladesh. Very recently, on 12 March’24 a catastrophic event took place when the Bangladesh flagged bulk carried called the MV Abdullah which is a subsidiary of the KSRM group came under attack by the eagle eyed Somali pirates in the waters of the Indian Ocean. This bulk carrier was enroute from Mozambique to the United Arab Emirates and it hosted 23 Bangladeshi crew members when it came under the unprecedented and unforeseeable attack. The News Agency Reuters reported that a ransom of $5 million was demanded by the pirates and finally when the desired ransom amount was paid in full, the 65 Somali pirates left the ship on nine boats and the bulk carrier MV Abdullah resumed its voyage to its targeted location.

Maritime security truly is pulsating in a negative way and is posing enormous threat to Bangladesh especially in light of current events for instance the tensions that resulted from the Houthi rebels of Yemen in the Red Sea. Threats to the maritime security is not anything alien to Bangladesh, as even earlier reports suggest that thousands of fishermen have been captured as hostages, attacked or even worse, killed off the coast of the port of Chattogram. As opined and displayed through records by the Cox’s Bazar District Fishing Trawler Owner Association (DFTOA), the pirates killed 411 fishermen and grievously injured approximately 1000 of them ranging from the years 2010 till 2014. The number of attacks drastically and significantly reduced in 2016 due to the government’s tactical approaches but then it again sky rocketed three fold since the year 2017 which has sparked major concerns for the country. Also illicit crimes like illegal fishing and poaching is a major concern as the fisheries sector takes up up 2.73 percent of the country’s GDP which is a fair amount of contribution to the country’s economy.

This needs to be borne in mind that modern piracy has effectively warped into a more organised and complex format hence increasing it’s potential threat even more to the country’s economic and maritime security.

Bangladesh can think of gravitating towards ‘capacity building’ which can be a powerful approach to dealing with the current challenges to its maritime security. By capacity building, the country can opt for activities that can empower the governments and also the coastal communities that will in turn efficaciously regulate the maritime domain. Capacity building will take into account essentials like the country’s scientific, technological, scientific, organisational, institutional, human and resource capabilities. Also Bangladesh will need to draft up a very efficient national Maritime Security Policy, a (MSP), and the timely implementation of such a policy will surely lead to the development of the maritime strategies for the country and will also be able to minutely observe the shortcomings that are currently in place and fill the gaps where it is needed. Countries like Indonesia, Seychelles, the US have already formulated their own maritime policies and it is high time that Bangladesh also follows their footsteps before there is an inevitable explosion if such poor conditions persist that is.

Also it is highly pertinent for Bangladesh to strengthen the existing legal frameworks that govern maritime security as there are very few laws that currently regulate the maritime affairs at present. As a matter of fact, in some areas like marine insurance, maritime pollution, collision and maritime crimes, there are no laws at all which is absolutely shocking to say the least. Also following age old laws which are quite ambiguous is also not coming to the rescue in the face of such heinous crimes and thus the laws need to be made more stringent and a proper policy revision of the existing laws is long overdue. The Bangladesh Marine Zone Act 2019 has been enacted by the government to suppress illicit crimes like armed robbery, piracy and the like and it has come to some help albeit not as much as a proper maritime policy strategic policy and plan would have come to. Bangladesh needs to put greater emphasis on formulating maritime policies that will take into account the modern and organised ways of the commission of such crimes as with time, technology is evolving and so are the methods that are adopted in order to commit these crimes. Also the country can greatly benefit by seeking partnership with foreign state actors and strengthening foreign and transnational diplomacy as this is also highly imperative in order to secure protection in the sea. As maritime exports is indeed Bangladesh’s cornerstone, hence timely implementation of laws, capacity building, procedural improvements, a very sound national maritime security policy can be some of the most fundamental prerequisites that can be considered in order to suppress and control such crimes and by protecting the maritime interests, Bangladesh government can effectively burgeon up the economy and the lives of all the people dwelling in this country with a hope to a better future.


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