To establish Bangladesh's sovereignty over its maritime boundary and assets and to facilitate search and extraction of marine resources, the Territorial Waters and Maritime Zones (Amendment) Bill was passed in Parliament on Sunday.
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen moved the Bill and it was passed by a voice vote.
The Bill proposed a maximum of three-year imprisonment, or a minimum Tk2 crore and a maximum Tk5 crore fine, or both, for maritime pollution. The punishment was one-year imprisonment and a Tk5,000 fine under the old law, enacted in 1974.
The new draft also includes punishment provisions 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 for 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.
Addressing the foreign minister during the discussion on the bill, BNP lawmaker Harunur Rashid said, "The law is important, but who are the big powers by your side to defend the sovereignty over the waters? India has already objected to the UN. Myanmar is not complying. Our country's fishermen and their boats are being taken by them, you are not able to do anything."
He said, "You have brought this bill to facilitate search and extraction of marine resources. But before that, we need to strengthen national unity and harmony."
Jatiya Party MP Rustam Ali Faraji called for taking effective steps to achieve Blue Economy.
In response, the Foreign Minister said, "We have already taken several initiatives to protect and extract these resources. We have a delta plan for 2100 which includes how the marine resources would be used."