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Saturday February 04, 2023

Maritime security as an enabler of blue economy

January 16, 2023

The oceans cover a large proportion of the earth’s surface and make up more than 95 per cent of the biosphere. Seas and oceans have been used since antiquity, but for a variety of reasons their usage has increased tremendously. They provide much of the world’s population with food and livelihoods and are a significant means of transport in global trade. The ocean-related economy has played a pivotal role in boosting the world economy. All advanced cities all over the world are mainly coastal cities. As per estimates, about 40% of the world population is living within 100kms of coastal areas.

The seabed is a major source of hydrocarbons, and exploration in this area is expanding. New technologies are advancing the frontiers of marine resource development, including bio-prospecting and the mining of seabed mineral resources. The sea also offers vast potential for renewable “blue energy” production from wind, wave, tidal, thermal and biomass sources. The potential of the oceans to meet sustainable development needs is enormous, but only if the oceans can be maintained in and/or restored to a healthy and productive state. The marine and coastal environments also constitute key resources for the important global tourism industry, supporting all aspects of the tourism development cycle, from infrastructure and the familiar “sun, sand and sea” formula to the diverse and expanding domain of eco-tourism.

The idea of the “blue economy” was conceived at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development held at Rio de Janeiro in June 2012. This conference addressed two key themes: the further development and refinement of the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development and the advancement of the “green economy” concept. Poverty eradication was identified as key challenge and focus on the green economy as a tool to achieve both poverty eradication and sustainable development.

The blue economy concept has been presented subsequently in many fora and is viewed as an alternative economic model for sustainable development that puts the oceans at the center of this approach.

Pakistan is also a maritime state. With more than 1,000km coastline along the Arabian Sea, 240,000 sq km of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and 50,000 sq km of the continental shelf provides Pakistan significantly large maritime avenues for exploration. This includes but is not limited to the use of ports and harbours and other coastal infrastructure to handle the country’s seaborne trade, exploration of oil, gas and mineral reserves from sea, seabed and sub-sea soil mineral, marine and coastal tourism, coastal economy, shipbuilding and shipbreaking industry and fisheries industry.

The fortune of any nation to explore and exploit the benefits of sea resources is hinged on the secured environment. The traditional ‘sea power role of naval forces has been both enhanced and diversified through the increased emphasis on delimitation of maritime jurisdiction, and increased activity within and across claimed maritime zones. Maintaining peace and security through peacekeeping operations and international diplomacy play important roles in supporting the stability necessary for fostering and growing economic relationships, and protecting crucial trade routes, and navies will continue to be important in their traditional military role. However, in addition to the traditional role, maritime security is increasingly playing a role in guarding against environmental damage and policy environmental regulations, such as marine protected areas (MPAs) and fisheries regulations, highlighting the complex intersections with all aspects of the blue economy.

The success of the CPEC and the Gwadar Port project is linked to the safe and secure maritime environment in the Indian Ocean region in general and the Arabian Sea in particular. The onus of keeping the Sea Lanes of Communications open and protecting Pakistan’s coast as well as the ports of Karachi, Bin-Qasim, Ormara and Gwadar rests with the Pakistan Navy (PN). The PN in collaboration with Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) has adopted a multi-pronged approach to deal with the prevailing challenges such as beefing up security of the Gwadar Port, conducting security patrols and coastal exercises, enhancing maritime domain awareness (MDA) and engaging in collaborative maritime security with regional and extra-regional navies.

In order to develop a modern and competitive maritime sector, healthy and bio-diverse marine environment, sustainable development of maritime sector supporting socio-economic livelihood and future aspiration of the nation. The Pakistan Navy, apart from the core tasks, has taken a number of steps to explore the blue economy potential that includes the raising of the Maritime Center of Excellence at the PN War College, establishment of the Joint Maritime Information and Coordination Centre to have a synergic approach. The centre maintains requisite level of information sharing and interactions with various national as well as regional stakeholders contributing towards secure and safer maritime activity in its area of

responsibility.

The Pakistan Navy has now taken another initiative to exhibit potential of Pakistan’s maritime sector through the Pakistan International Maritime Expo & Conference (PIMEC) planned to be held biennially. The premier edition of PIMEC is being organised by the Pakistan Navy under the patronage of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs (MoMA), Government of Pakistan, from10-12 February 2023 at the Expo Center Karachi. PIMEC will provide a foundation to bring together stakeholders from diverse maritime industries of hydrocarbon extraction, coastal development, shipping, port infrastructure, fisheries, marine tourism, offshore renewable energy, aquaculture, seabed mining, marine services, maritime security equipment, etc. Hence, this exhibition will showcase the complete potential of the maritime industry with an aim to draw attention towards its contribution in the global economy; besides, raising maritime awareness among the general populace. The three-day event will provide a platform for B2B interaction, joint venture & negotiations with the target customers and decision makers. In short, PIMEC will draw focus on the immense scope offered by maritime industry towards the global blue economy and spur wider public interest and investments in a rather untapped maritime sector of Pakistan. An International Maritime Conference on the topic of blue economy will also be part of this mega event in which internationally reputed maritime experts will take part.

Another key step by the PN for community awareness is the establishment of the Bahria School of Maritime and Applied Sciences at the Bahria University, Karachi Campus. Additionally, arrangement of seminars/webinars is a regular feature to generate awareness among the masses and bring together all stakeholders.

However, the country’s realization of the vast potential in the form of the blue economy is dependent upon the need to realise the importance of the sea into the nation’s collective consciousness through a well-orchestrated and focused awareness campaign. To accrue economic benefits, an all-inclusive approach is to be endeavored at national level. A three- pronged strategy: combined vision of all stakeholders, understanding and inclusiveness of common people, especially the coastal community and innovative policies/project is considered the hallmark for the purpose.

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