Initiative to enhance Maritime Search and Rescue Capacity in Bay of Bengal
Rear Admiral Kazi Sarwar Hossain
Maritime Dimensions of Bangladesh
Bangladesh is truly a maritime nation with a huge sea area of one hundred thousand eighteen thousands eight hundred and thirteen square kilometers which is almost equal to the size of Bangladesh. After the resolution of Maritime boundary with India and Myanmar Bangladesh has been bestowed with this huge maritime area where a large number of living and nonliving resources are available which should be preserved and harvested sustainably for prosperity of our country. Besides, the sea lines of communication which passes through our sea area is the most important economic lifeline of the country through which 95% of maritime trade traverse. A large number of merchant ships, coastal cargo coasters, mechanized cargo boats, fishing trawlers and artisanal fishing boats are regularly operating in conducting their economic activities in the Bay of Bengal. Every year a staggering amount of Marine accidents take place in our sea resulting into loss of lives and property and damages to the tunes of millions of dollars. As per the latest scientific survey (Science Direct, Proceedia Engineering 2017) 595 marine accidents took place during the period between 1981 to2015.
Marvel of the Inland waterways
In addition to this huge sea area Bangladesh is also endowed with an excellent network of rivers, tributaries and canal which supports an unique inland water transport connectivity system. As a matter of fact there are as many as 700 rivers that which are the arteries of this this system. Total length of the waterway is 24100 km which is 7% of the overall area of Bangladesh (Journal of International Maritime Safety, Environmental Affairs and Shipping, 2021). More than 50% of the merchandise and 25% of the people are carried through these waterways yearly. As per the 2021 records of the Department of Shipping 12959 inland vessels are registered to ply in these waterways. It is estimated that roughly three time more then that number of vessels ply through the inland waterway which are not registered.
Intensity and Frequency of Maritime Accidents
According to the latest survey there have been 400 inland water vehicle accidents that happened in last four decades and 10000 peoples have lost their lives from those accidents (The Independent 28 December 2021). In last fifteen years alone 178 inland passenger vessels were involved in accidents along with 595 marine vessel accident resulting into loss lives and property (Science Direct, Proceedia Engineering 2017). As per the opinion of the experts who conducted detailed investigation and survey, 24.7% of the accident took place due vehicular collision while 42.7 % was due to overloading. Inclement weather was reason for 23.6% of the accidents while fire and explosion accounted for 6.12% of the accident. It was revealed during various study that lack of supervision, absence of appropriate mechanism to enforce requisite live saving rules and equipment, lack of knowledge and negligence to follow necessary provisions of the lifesaving guidance were some of the major lapses on the part of the authorities.
Genesis of Maritime Search and Rescue Society
In order to augment and strengthen the search and rescue capability of Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Coast Guard and Bangladesh Inland water Transport Authority Maritime Search and rescue Society came into existence in 2017 as the only privately organized maritime search and rescue organization in Bangladesh.
As per the mandate approved by the Government of Bangladesh following are the objective of Maritime Search and Rescue Society.
Conduct Search and Rescue of Seafarers and, Water Users in Bangladesh
The objective of Maritime Search and Rescue Society (MSRS) is to provide help as a life savers and rescue anyone in distress in the off shore areas of Bangladesh and waterways inside the country. The motto of our organization is to be the first responder during any waterborne disaster and coordinate with other rescue organization of Bangladesh like Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Coast Guard and Bangladesh Inland water Transport authority in order to undertake search and Rescue operation at the earliest opportunity. MSRS will keep liaison with similar authorities and exchange information as necessary to commence the Search and Rescue Operation.
Enhance Awareness among the Seafarers
MSRS will undertake required activities to improve necessary knowledge, specially, of the fisherman and other sea farers on maritime safety and security. To create awareness among the fisherman and other sea goers regarding safety at sea regular training sessions would be organised by this organization. The organization will also advise the fishing and passengers vessel owners to comply with the safety code at sea and other waterways before the vessel is sent out.
Arrangement of Equipment Support
The organization will coordinate with government organizations and interested nongovernmental entity and foreign donaragencies to help provide the fishing and other vessels with adequate Radio/electronic devices to be able to guide them and locate them in case of any situation needing such action.
Providing Lifesaving support in the Beach Areas and enclosed water bodies
The society will utilize retired divers of Bangladesh Navy and also recruit volunteer from among the local population who will act as life guard in beach areas along the coast of Bangladesh and also in the ponds, lakes and swimming pools to reduce cases of drowning. The society will Carry out motivating activities/other actions in order to find volunteers for the job of lifeguard.
Participate in Disaster relief Operations
The society will coordinate with all concerned agencies of Bangladesh to provide disaster relief during natural calamities such as floods, cyclones, cold spells and the adverse effects of climate changes and conducting post disaster assistance by launching social welfare works and community development activities through poverty alleviation and income generating programs. The society will also launch mass education and social awareness initiatives focusing on Human Development and Skill Development through awareness campaign, various motivational activities for the distressed people of the coastal area of Bangladesh.
Research On Maritime Security Environment
The society will conduct research on Maritime security environment in the Bay of Bengal in coordination with other Maritime Think Tanks of Bangladesh. Some of the major focus of the research will be on Climate Change and its effects on Marine environment, Marine Biodiversity, Sea Level rise and Coastal Habitats of Bangladesh. The findings and the recommendations of the research works will be shared with other Think tanks having similar interests. In addition recommendations will be forwarded to concerned authorities as policy advocacy and policy guidelines.
Present Capabilities and Future expansion Plan of the Society
The society has four in number high speed boats which are stationed in Chittagong. These boats can be used for Search and Rescue mission. The society will man them, maintain them, and keep them operationally ready to be used during the rescue operation 7/24.
In future the society will establish adequate number. of coastal stations with staff in order to keep watch in the coastal and beach areas and provide help in case of any disaster. The institution will prepare and built enough shore and harbor facilities in the coastal areas for the safe securing of the rescue vessels and to provide residence to the personnel so engaged in manning the vessels.
The society will cooperate with other organizations in the country or abroad, already working in these or similar fields in order to augment their effort or to take their help to beef up her operation.
The society will purchase or to acquire on lease or in exchange or hire or to acquire by gift or otherwise boats, ships and aircraft to augment her rescue capacity.
Maritime Search and Rescue Society is a philanthropic institution, which is working alongside Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Coast Guard and other Maritime Organization of the country. Its mission is to conduct search and rescue of seafarers, fishermen, passengers and water users who are in distress at sea or in the inland water ways of Bangladesh. It is an unique institution which is the only privately organized Maritime Search and Rescue Institution in Bangladesh. The society will need encouragement suggestions and assistance of every one who care about the maritime future of Bangladesh.
Rear Admiral Kazi Sarwar Hossain, Executive Director, Maritime Search and Rescue Society.