Commodore A M Quamrul Huq, (ND), NGP, ndc, afwc, psc, BN :
The network of innumerous water-courses, inundation prone low lying plains, sea dominated delta and water-based culture and economy make Bangladesh a unique maritime country in the world. The olden days of Bangladesh bear the testimonies of rich maritime heritage that dates back to millennia which succumbed to the conflicting needs of colonial powers. The father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman re-found 'Maritime Bangladesh' as a domain full of promises and opportunities and enacted 'Territorial Waters and Maritime Zones Act 1974' in the shortest possible time. In the recent times 'Maritime Bangladesh' became again alive under the bold-sponsorship of his daughter the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who subsequently gifted the nation with a 'Blue Bangladesh' of 1,18,813 square kilometers. Now the full promises and opportunities of 'Maritime Bangladesh', dubbed as 'Blue Economy' have come within the reach of the nation. But the 'Ways' and 'Means' to harness and capitalize the full benefits of the same, to fuel the nation's growth engine, remained yet an uncharted water mostly due to the absence of our own maritime professionals and experts. It took no time for our Prime Minister to identify the requirements of maritime higher education and research and under her patronage Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Maritime University (BSMRMU) set sails in 2013, as the 37th public and as the 1st maritime university of Bangladesh, 3rd in South-Asia and 12th in the world. Since inception it is keen to earn international reputation and become a center of maritime excellence. Thus, besides education and training, the university is regularly arranging various activities including seminars, symposiums, workshops and other intellectual undertakings with scholars and resource persons from home and abroad.
The 'Maritime Bangladesh' includes part of the Bay of Bengal (BoB), rivers (6-7% of land) and seasonal wetlands/floodplains (56-80%). The BoB had been a unique stage for cross-cultural communication, trade and commerce since millennia. With 2.172 million square kilometers area, the BoB is occupying only 0.6% of the ocean space, is endowed with approximately 100 trillion cubic feet, or approximately 1% of the world's total unexploited oil and gas reserves. In 2050, with only 4.7% land area the BoB rim countries will have 29.69% of World GDP when 56.51% of world GDP will concentrate within 1000 kilometers of BoB (in 11.3% world's land area). The world's top ranking GDPs which will be within 1000 kilometers circle are China (1st), India (2nd), Indonesia (4th), Bangladesh (23rd), Malaysia (24th), Thailand (25th), Singapore, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.
In the contemporary era BoB is becoming strategically central for its littorals and global players. Bangladesh has a sizeable stake in the BoB and an excellent network of river routes, is situated on the cross-roads of a huge land locked region seeking access to sea. These have opened up new horizon of opportunities for Bangladesh in its maritime frontiers. Few of the important 'Blue Economic' activities in Bangladesh are as under:
Shipping and Export Import (Exim) Trade: 90% Exim trade of Bangladesh is conducted through sea which is growing almost 10% per year, while the shipping of neighbouring countries through Bangladesh is growing at a rate of 7%. The sea custom of Chittagong alone is the source of 28.8% national revenue. The shipping related charges amount 25% of Exim trade meaning Bangladesh can earn billions from shipping charges.
Inland Water Transportation (IWT): Around 110 billion passenger-kilometers and 18.6 billion ton-kilometers are transported annually by IWT system. Bangladesh can raise its GDP by 1% while foreign trade by 20% if the IWT is made efficient.
Fishery: Bangladesh is the world 3rd in inland capture fishery, 4th in aquaculture production while fishery ranks 2nd in national export earnings. It is the source of 80 percent of national protein, 3.69% GDP and 11-13 million jobs while the marine fisheries alone is supporting 14 million livelihood.
Minerals: Bangladesh sea area has 11 shallow and 15 deep water blocks. 40 TCF gas may be found in the offshore blocks. 17 deposits of potentially valuable minerals and heavy minerals are also found in our coastal belt.
Sea Salt Cultivation: 1.5 million people of Bangladesh are engaged in salt cultivation, producing more than 15 million tons of salt meets about 87% of country's demand.
Sweet Water Resources: With about .09% world's land area Bangladesh ranks 98th in size, whereas with a total of 1,227 Cubic Kilometer annual production (about 2.2% of world production) Bangladesh ranks 12th in renewable fresh water production capacity. Proper conservation and value addition to the enormous water resources can bring immense benefits to the nation.
Ship Building and Ship Breaking: Bangladesh is 13th in the world in shipbuilding and 3rd in ship breaking. Both the sectors are giving good dividend to the country.
Land Accretion: The rivers of Bangladesh are the source of 1.4 to 2.5 billion tons of sediments most of which are lost in the BoB. Despite that Bangladesh has claimed about 1800 square kilometers new land since 1950. Retention of more sediment will allow Bangladesh to accelerate claiming new lands.
The opportunities of the out-of-the-sight 'Maritime Domain' including the challenges and problems could not escape the sight of the Prime Minister who could guess that Bangladesh is in shortage of maritime experts, professional and practitioners. So, right after the Bangladesh-Myanmar maritime delimitation verdict she initiated the process of setting up BSMRMU which includes 7 faculties, 38 departments and 4 institutes as under:
Presently BSMRMU is running 5 undergraduate and 7 masters programmes in the temporary campus in Dhaka while Bangladesh Marine Academy and Bangladesh Fishery Academy are affiliated with it. The permanent campus of the University is being constructed in Chittagong. It is expected that it will shift to Chittagong by 2021 when it will have a capacity of 3000 students. By 2025, the University will have 6000 students while 12000 students after 2025. It will have an Oceanographic Research Vessel (ORV) to conduct research and training in the BoB and Indian Ocean.
BSMRMU is committed to provide values-based quality education to develop competent world class professionals. As such students are continuously guided to develop personality, proficiency, human quality, character traits and encouraged to participate in extra and co-curricular activities, seminars, symposiums/workshops and other intellectual undertakings. The University organizes study tours (Internal and Overseas) and Seminars (Internal and International) so that the students are exposed to diverse knowledge sharing environments. As the only seat for maritime higher education in Bangladesh, while organizing seminars, BSMRMU endeavours to make it Bangladesh-centric with topics that would ultimately contribute to the sustainable development of Bangladesh. Keeping this in view the theme of BSMRMU International Seminar-2019 has been selected as 'An Outlook for Sustainable Maritime Development and Governance: Challenges and Way Ahead'. The seminar spans over three sessions as follows:
Regional Maritime Connectivity and Security: Oceans and major rivers connect people, melting down cultures and religions. The geographic setting of the BoB region with future great economies of the world demands enhanced maritime and inland waterways including multi-modal connectivity for economic and peace dividends. The development of a connectivity architecture and security paradigm in this region is not an easy undertaking. At this backdrop following papers of this session will focus on some important aspects:
-BIMSTEC at the Crossroads: Connectivity, Security and Sustainable Developments
- Maritime Crime and Security: BoB Perspective
- Emerging Trends in Maritime Logistics and Connectivity
- Port and Shipping Management: Global Perspective
Ocean Health and Governance: A "Healthy" ocean ecosystem is the outcome of healthy and balanced governance. Ocean governance is the integrated conduct of the policy and actions to protect ocean environment and marine bio-diversity against overexploitation, pollution and deterioration etc. Following papers of this session will focus on some important ocean health and governance aspects:
- Impact of Maritime Law and UNCLOS III on Ocean Governance
- The Importance of Maintaining Ocean Health and Biodiversity and Consequences on Maritime Security
- Enhancing Global Competencies for good Maritime Governance
- Ocean Governance: A Corner Stone for an Effective Implementation of Blue Economic Policies
Maritime Technology and Harnessing Ocean Resources: The earlier concept of a sea-based economy mainly focused on harnessing known marine resources through only traditional means. Such unscientific and need-based extraction approach caused rapid depletion of resources and put the delicate balance of the marine ecosystem at risk, besides it did not add much value to the marine products. Use of modern technologies is allowing exploitation of resources keeping the ocean health intact and adding enormous values to such products. This session with following papers will seek to give few answers in these aspects:
- Energy Scenario in the BoB: Prospects and Challenges
- Digitized, Interconnected and Energy Efficient Smart Port
- Ocean Energy: The New Frontier in Asia
- Prospects of Marine Natural Resources in Developing Health Care Products
Bangladesh is a land-starved country, thus it is essential for her to make full use of resources and opportunities available in the maritime domain. The enormous prospects and potentials of 'Maritime Bangladesh' also justify such undertakings which however, demands skill, expertise and knowledge. BSMRMU is dedicated for developing human resources with maritime skill and expertise and contribute to maritime related knowledge bank of the country. With this in view the University is patronizing out-of-the-box approaches to educate its students beside others that also include practical exposures to maritime fields, institutions, infrastructures and real-time experts/professionals/practitioners etc. It is expected that the students of BSMRMU will gradually mature themselves and take over the leadership positions in the maritime sector of Bangladesh in near future.
(The author is Treasurer of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Maritime University).