Bangladesh Navy Patrols New Sea Boundary

Dhaka: The Bangladesh Navy has made its first patrol across the settled boundary in the Bay of Bengal after last week’s victory in a UN court on Bangladesh’s maritime boundary claims against Burma, according to a report of the The Daily Star.

The reported quoted a competent navy source who said that three ships from the Chittagong naval base and one from the Mongla base were deployed during the patrol on 15 March – a day after the verdict was pronounced. Of the four ships, two cruised down south straight from St. Martin’s Island.


According to the report, the Bangladesh has sailed up to 175 nautical miles into the bay.


There were no Burmese ships in the new territory, although Burmese navy ships are in Burmese waters nearby, the report said.


On 14 March, Bangladesh won the verdict at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, which sustained its claim to exclusive economic and territorial rights in the 200-nautical-mile zone in the Bay of Bengal, while rejecting the claims of Burma. With this judgement, Bangladesh gained rights to a sea area of 1.11 lakh square miles.


Following this, Bangladesh for the first time patrolled the area without a hitch last week.


The navy will continue to patrol year-round, although the sea will turn to rough in April, said the report.


Previously, Bangladeshi fishermen would be detained or harassed by Burmese navy personnel if they were found in the disputed waters, the report added.


However, at present the US oil company ConocoPhillips is conducting a 2,200 kilometer seismic survey to explore oil or gas in the Bay of Bengal, including area that was previously claimed by Burma. The survey is expected to be completed next month.


Upon interpretation of the seismic data, if the company finds any prospects and decides to drill an exploratory well there next year, the navy would have to ensure necessary security. Back in November 2008, naval forces from Bangladesh and Burma were locked in a tense standoff for nearly a week when the latter brought in an oil and gas exploration ship to the disputed waters. The hotspot was located 55 kilometers southwest at 227 degrees from St. Martin’s Island.


Burmese authorities were escorting a Korean ship to start exploration activities there while ignoring warnings from the Bangladesh Navy. All diplomatic bids to end the face-off seemed to be failing until the South Korean company itself withdrew from the operation.


Now that the maritime boundary dispute is settled, it appears that the location where Burma brought the Korean ship falls within their territory. A naval officer said Bangladesh enjoys its rights up to 215 degrees southwest from St. Martin’s Island.