Pakistan, Maritime,

The maritime sector of any country holds pronounced benefits for its inhabitants and directly contributes in national development. Yet, there is little public awareness about the gravity of the maritime sector of Pakistan. The popularity of CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) exposed legal standing of maritime sector of the country and its rights and obligations affiliated therein. This phenomenon of cognitive aspect derives its legitimacy and recognition through an ample quantity of international and domestic legal bodies and instruments. United Nations contributed a great deal in codification for Law of Sea. From the Geneva Conventions of 1958 on The Territorial Sea and The Contiguous Zone, Convention on the High Seas, Convention on Fishing and Conservation of Living Resources of the High Seas, Convention on the Continental Shelf till the United Nations Convention on Law of Sea UNCLOS 1982, it has been a progressive legal headway, involved vigorous diplomacy and negotiations on the part of United Nations among the states. There have been maritime zones and boundaries maintained, in the sea, to rationalize interests of conflicted states over marine resources.

Pakistan ratified UNCLOS 1982, on 26 February 1997[1] and its coast is about 990 Km long stretches from Indian border in the east to the Iranian border in the west, with total maritime zone of over 30%, enriched with fisheries, minerals, and hydrocarbon resources.[2] Fortunately, The National Institute of Oceanography Pakistan is entrusted with the task for oceanic research and National Centre for Maritime Policy Research (NCMPR) in Karachi, though inaugurated in 2007, is responsible to perform as a Think-Tank for multidisciplinary study of maritime affairs and challenges, maritime policy research, education and public awareness, under the directions of federal government.[3]

Internal waters of Pakistan consist upon lakes, canals, rivers, harbors, ports, and water on landward side of the baseline from which width of territorial sea is measured. Territorial sea or the maritime belt is 12 mm (1 nautical mile is equivalent to 6080 feet) extends beyond internal waters. Pakistan as coastal state exercises sovereignty over its territorial sea (subject to right of innocent passage for foreign vessels), enjoys exclusive airspace above its territorial sea, right to exploit sea resources, right of enactment, right to free-combat zone in situation of war if Pakistan maintains the status of neutrality and the right to arrest merchant ships (except for warships). The French writer Gidel, introduced the theory of the Contiguous Zone between two World Wars, to supervise and prevent infringement of its customs, fiscal, immigration and sanitary regulations and punish the infringements. (Malanczuk, 1997) the Contiguous Zone of Pakistan is 24 nm long.

Dutch jurist and philosopher Hugo Grotius presented the international legal doctrine on freedom of the seas in ‘Mare Liberum’.  High seas may be used freely by all the vessels of nations and provide freedom of navigation, fishing, laying submarine cables and pipelines, building artificial islands and freedom to fly over the high seas subject to the limitations of Contiguous Zone and EEZ. These freedoms are enjoyed by the landlocked countries as well, under their own flags in the high seas as reaffirmed by United Nations Resolution 46/212. (Ravin, 2005)

Nevertheless, with a considerable increase in economic growth, states started claiming Exclusive Fisheries Zones/Exclusive Economic Zones EEZ in high seas to exploit marine resources living or non-living. The first Cod War on the amount of Cod fish caught by British and Icelandic fishermen caused many ramming. Iceland claimed its Exclusive Fisheries Zone up to 200 nm and threatened to withdraw from North Atlantic Treaty Organization NATO (about 90 percent of living marine resources are caught within 200 nm of the coast). Consequently, in 1976 Great Britain agreed to have its fishermen stay outside Iceland’s 200 nm. EEZ also entitles coastal states to control pollution, scientific research and allow payment from foreign vessels to fish if coastal state cannot exploit living resources of its EEZ and aspire to progress on its marine assets. The largest EEZ in the world is enjoyed by United States in Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Oceans, including areas surrounding U.S islands.

Pakistan has an EEZ extending up to 200 nm. The UN Commission on Limits of Continental Shelf, extended the continental shelf of Pakistan up to 350 nm. Interestingly, Chile and Peru have no continental shelf, and they exercise sovereignty over the sea bed and subsoil for 200 nm from their coast. The recent increase in maritime area of Pakistan, is estimated about 290,000 sq. km, larger than the Province of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (It is the area of seabed over which a coastal State exercises sovereign rights to explore and exploit natural resources including oil and gas deposits, minerals and nodules worth of billion dollars)[4] However, a recent report of Pakistan’s fisheries resources carried out by UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) suggested that these resources are over-exploited, requires reduction of fishing by sharp 50 percent.[5]

Worldwide, from 35% to 65% of population lives within a hundred miles of coastlines. But only 8% of Pakistanis live in the costal belt. The population density demands enhanced infrastructure and employment opportunities pertaining to maritime sector. Which includes, but not limited to; ports, shipping, carriage and goods insurance, ship building, ship repairing, seafaring, scientific research and study, banking, finance, consulting services and mandatory legislation for investments, sustainable living, and development. (Force, 2016)

The International Tribunal for the Law of Sea is an independent judicial body established by the UNCLOS 1982 to adjudicate disputes among the states concerning the interpretation or application of the Convention.[6] In Pakistan, the Sindh and Baluchistan High Courts hold admiralty jurisdiction under High Court Ordinance of 1980. Pakistan submitted its legislative references under due publicity obligations pursuant to the UNCLOS 1982 i.e. Exclusive Fishery Zone (Regulation of Fishery) Act 1975, Territorial waters and Maritime Zone Act 1976, Exclusive Fishery Zone (Regulation of Fishery) Rules 1978 as amended in 1990, Territorial waters and Maritime Zone (Amendment) Act 1997 which amends the Territorial Waters and Maritime Zones Act 1976. On the contrary, The Admiralty Laws of Pakistan comprise of Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1925 (Hauge Rules), Karachi Port Trust Act 1886, Marine Insurance Act 1938, Carriage of Customs Act 1996 and Merchant Shipping Ordinance 2001, stand undated and unabated.[7]

International Maritime Organization IMO is responsible to create and control a universal regulatory framework for the shipping industry, security and marine environment protection, rendering states liable for the enforcement of IMO conventions.[8] The duty of protection of CPEC and vessels using Pakistani ports principally rests with Pakistan NAVY, contemplating a pressurizing and demanding situation. In comparison to that, the National Maritime Affairs Coordination Committee initiated by the Government of Pakistan in 1983 determined new dimensions introduced by UNCLOS 1982. It founded Maritime Affairs Wing in the Ministry of Defence in 1986, followed by the institution of Pakistan Maritime Security Agency in 1987 to recruit paramilitary force for the enforcement of National and International laws at sea.[9] Both of the forces should be employed and trained well to ensure maritime security, counter terrorism and piracy, assisted with reasonable investments on behalf of the Government in terms of technology, modern weaponry, necessary equipment and personnel.[10]

Established in 2004, Ministry of Ports and Shipping act as the central administrative authority to facilitate the ports and shipping industry of Pakistan. It works through policy guideline for port and shipping development, in addition to ensure safety standards as per International Maritime Organization(IMO) for Pakistani seafarers. Unfavourably, Pakistani seafarers are internationally persecuted, as the other states are holding ‘restrictive nationality’ approach towards green passport.[11]  It necessitates instant bilateral/ multilateral agreements and effective diplomacy to restore the market of Pakistani seafarers and their safety on the part of the Ministry. The current circumstances also account for good governance, professionalism and mutual coordination with the subordinate organizations of the Ministry (Gwadar Port Authority, Government Shipping Office, Karachi Port Trust, Mercantile Marine Department, Pakistan Marine Academy, Pakistan National Shipping Corporation, Port Qasim Authority, and Ports and Shipping Wing, Karachi)[12] Nonetheless, considering the role of CPEC in the growth of maritime sector of Pakistan, Raheela Durrani suggested that Unity and Legislation for CPEC is the need of time (Key Note Speaker-The Economic Development through New Silk Route Via Khuzdar: Way Forward to National Legislation) It claims streamlined Maritime Policy and revised Admiralty Laws in Pakistan. (Nawaz, 2004)

Bearing in mind, the work of the government agencies and bodies involved in the progress of maritime sector of Pakistan, it still has a long way to go, faced with potential challenges. We have to act vigilant and prioritize our interests over friends and foes. As a nation, we should appreciate that having an important geo-strategic, political and economic position regionally and globally, hold lucrative marine resources with enough potential and competence to thrive.  For now, we must lobby the government and public opinion towards the development of maritime sector of Pakistan and demonstrate sincerity in promulgating the national maritime policy.


Tuba Azeem

has done LLM in International Law from the International Islamic University, Islamabad.

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