DHAKA: Non-conventional threats become most important phenomena about maritime security issues, and they come from mostly non-state actors which directly threat maritime security issues.
However, Bangladesh is facing most of the maritime security challenges from non-conventional threats. Still maritime security in Bangladesh remains less secure in spite of having national security agencies like coast guard and navy.
Fishery is the most important source of nutrition and protein. It is more applicable for Bangladesh because being an over populated country it has no option to avoid maritime fishing sector for food security.
Fisherman security issue of Bangladesh has been experiencing adversities since many decades. Sometimes, fishermen got tortured or killed and looted by sea robbers in Bangladesh maritime territory. Moreover, in the Bay of Bengal many sea robbery groups are active.
Cox’s Bazar District Fishing Trawler Owner Association (DFTOA) estimated that in the last five years robbers had killed at least 411 fishermen and wounded at least 1,000. Fishermen are facing a lot of obstacles from the bandits.
On the other hand, due to equipment shortage and less manpower in Bangladesh Navy, they have little ability to prevent these types of activities. Additionally, Myanmar’s fishermen are breaking international maritime territory law for catching fish, because of these types of activities Bangladeshi fishermen are being deprived of their trade.
Among the total income from fisheries of the country, 20 percent come from sea contributing five percent in country’s GDP. It is also the most important for sustainable food security and national economy.
Without strong national policy for this sector, it is not possible to earn sustainable growth smoothly. It is also true that poverty and unemployment lead to robbery being seen as an alternative source of income for some of the coastal poor communities.
Human trafficking got much attention in Bangladesh in 2015, when several world media published that rescuing 72 Bangladeshi men from jungle camp in Thailand. These Bangladeshis were the victims of organized slave trade. They were taken illegally for job but later were sold as slaves. Many Bangladeshi workers are involved in East Asian countries with handsome salary; human traffickers used this bet to traffic people from Bangladesh.
Suritec Piracy Report published a report about new emerging ship piracy and robbery hotspots in August, 2014. These were South China, Gulf of Guinea and Bangladesh.
Maritime terrorism is the newly risen phenomenon among non-conventional maritime threats, because it is easy to enter any land through sea and tough to detect location by technology.
Moreover, more than 60 countries around the world are facing the challenge of terrorism and Bangladesh is one of them.
Though it is not severe in present time in Bangladesh, but there is no guarantee that it will not be severe in future. Maritime terrorism incidents are known for South Asian region.
During Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) insurgency, Sri Lanka faced so many attacks from sea. In recent time, India faced attacks from sea, when 20 young terrorists entered in Indian maritime territory and attacked a Mumbai hotel killing many civilians in November 26, 2008.
Container security also linked with maritime terrorism. In 2002, the US navy found Al-Queada terrorists, equipped with arms. They were planning to make violence in the US. Since last three decades maritime terrorist attacks have been constituted 2-percent.
Besides, Bangladesh government has articulated ‘zero tolerance’ policy about terrorism including maritime violence.
Drug smuggling has also been happening through sea since many decades. Some time drugs traffickers and terrorist groups work hand-to-hand. Because of illegal drugs supply South Asian country Pakistan has been treated as ‘Golden Crescent’. The country is regionally a neighbor of Bangladesh.
Moreover, Bangladesh’s eastern neighboring country Myanmar is known as ‘Golden Triangle’ state for drugs trafficking activities. There is no surety that Bangladesh will not be affected from these types of activities. Drug peddlers could use Bangladesh territory as transit point for illegal drugs supply.
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNDOC) has reported that Myanmar and Afghanistan are the two major places of illicit drug production. The smugglers are using Bay of Bengal and its adjacent rivers to supply drugs. Myanmar smugglers are using the route to supply yaba tablets and other narcotics to Bangladesh.
Gunrunning at sea is another non-conventional threat to Bangladesh. Illegal arms trafficking in Bay of Bengal is not any new issue. Illegal arms suppliers use port and maritime as transit point. Bangladesh has well experience about these threats.
In April 2, 2004, Bangladesh police seized a large supply of illegal arms. From this supply Bangladesh police caught submachine guns, AK-47 rifles, rocket launchers, 2,000 grenades and three lakh bullets during unloading from MV khazar Dan and FB Amanat at Chittagong Urea Fertilizer jetty. It was long standing media issue for many days.
It had been proved that, the arms haul was imported by India’s Assam-based militant group United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA). In last six-seven years Bangladesh coastal guard and police seized several small fishing crafts laden with arms and drugs in Cox’s Bazar coastal area but shipment took place in Thailand.
Sea-borne robbery issue discussed non-conventional maritime threat issue. International Maritime Bureau defines maritime piracy as “any act of boarding of attempt to board any ship with intent to commit theft or any other crimes and with intent or capability to use force in furtherance of act”.
Actually, most of the robberies took place in deep sea and contagious zone. In this case, robbers take control over the ship and cargo and demand huge amount of ransom from ship owner to avoid violence and killing. Traders’ losses estimated of 13-16-billion US dollar per year because of sea borne robbery in the world.
Pacific region, Indian Ocean, Somalia coast, Malacca Strait and Singapore are highly risky areas. However, Bay of Bengal has also robbery experience. That is why ocean-bound Bangladeshi ships are also in danger for this issue. Bangladeshi sea robbers are in some way different from worldwide maritime piracy as they are not like Somalia sea pirates by their activities.
Bangladeshi robbers do not have the capacity to go deep sea and commit piracy, there are limited to simple armed robbery, minor theft and banditry in ships, both foreign and domestic. They attack anchored ships near the coast or even in the ports.
Pollution of marine environment would be seen as a serious offence. Rivers of Bangladesh fall in Bay of Bengal after long way from China, Nepal, India and finally Bangladesh which carried out waste from upper region to sea. Rivers carry various types of chemical and industrial waste and dump in sea. It is harmful for living and non-living resources.
In case, in the Bay of Bengal 20 percent of the entire living resources and 80 percent of non-living resources are available. Scientists believe that almost half million types of living and non-living resources are available in the sea. Oil discharging from ship and vessels is the vital reason for sea pollution which spreads and covers large area of water-surface hampering fisheries.
Bangladesh ship breaking industry is a controversial issue for environmental pollution. In the process of ship recycling, total contents cannot be recycled. It produces toxic wastes that severely harmful for the environment. Scrapped ships have huge paint containing lead, cadmium, originations, arsenic, zinc, chromium and litters of various types of oil.
During ship breaking time no one care about these materials, and laborers dump them in open beach area. Ship breaking activities create threat to both the territorial and marine environment as well as to public health.
Rising temperature causes sea level rise and affects low lying delta regions of the world. Bangladesh has 710-km coastline in the Bay of Bengal. Out of 64 districts in Bangladesh, 19 have low coastline.
World Bank estimated that sea level will rise 10-cm, 25-cm, and 1-m by 2020, 2050 and 2100; affecting 2 percent, 4 percent, and 17 percent land to submerged by the sea. Every year sea level of Bangladesh is rising 1-cm which is affecting in agriculture, fisheries, tourism, island, ecosystem, ports, and business sectors.
Sectors related to maritime will face threats from this climate change.
Recently, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said in her speech in third BIMSTEC summit in Nay Pyi Taw that “A rise in 1 degree Celsius due to global warming would submerge a fifth of Bangladesh forcing 30 million people to become climate migrants”.
Writer: Ataus Samad Raju, ex-scholar of UNESCO Madanjeet Singh Institute of South Asia Regional Cooperation (UMISARC), Pondicherry University, India
BDST: 1953 HRS, OCT 09, 2016