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ISLAMABAD: The government has approved Pakistan Maritime Zones (PMZ) Act-2020, according to which entry of any warship, submarines/super tankers/nuclear power ships, etc, in Pakistani waters will not be allowed without prior permission.

Sharing the details, the sources said, that Cabinet Committee on Legislative Cases (CCLC) in its meeting held on May 14, 2020 considered the summary submitted by Defence Division titled "The Pakistan Maritime Zones (PMZ) Act-2020," and deferred its consideration with the following stipulations: (i) a consultative meeting will be held in the Law & Justice Division, wherein, the Defence Division would give a detailed presentation with regard to proposed bill focusing on international laws and international best practices and ; (ii) consultation with Petroleum & Power Divisions will be held and their point of view may be reflected in the summary.

The proposed legislation noted that Territorial Waters & Maritime Zones Act, 1976 was enacted to implement 1958 Geneva Conventions on territorial sea, contiguous zone and continental shelf. United Nation's Convention on Law of Sea (UNCLOS) and came into force in 1982 which introduced a comprehensive regime of sea laws.

Pakistan ratified UNCLOS which demands a complete revision of the Act. Accordingly, amendments/ revisions in the Act were proposed in 2002 after making consultations with various Ministries/Divisions and taking relevant stakeholders on board. States ratifying conventions are obliged to implement the provisions of the conventions in terms of Vienna Convention on Law of Treaties, 1969 hence Pakistan also requires domestic legislation to carry into effect the treaty provisions after ratification.

During the discussion, the members of the CCLC raised the following observations/questions; (i) criteria for granting permission to foreign warships/submarines/super tankers/nuclear power ships, etc, for entry into territorial sea of Pakistan; (ii) why warships and aircrafts of all states have been given the right of freedom of navigation/over flight in the EEZ of Pakistan and airspace;(iii) why foreign warships/ state owned ships will not be arrested under the Act and; (iv) jurisdiction of Pakistan should be extended on foreign ships in territorial sea of Pakistan if any person from Pakistan is onboard that ship.

Replying to the observations the meeting was briefed that Article 23 of UNCLOS provides that the foreign nuclear-powered ships and the ships carrying nuclear or other inherently dangerous or noxious substances shall, when exercising the right of passage through the territorial sea, carry documents and observe special precautionary measures established for such ships by international agreements. Article 30 of UNCLOS provides that if any warship does not comply with the laws and regulations of the coastal State concerning passage through the territorial sea and disregards any request for compliance therewith, the coastal State may require it to leave the territorial sea immediately.

Rules pertaining to carriage of hazardous and dangerous substances by ships within EEZ of Pakistan are covered under S.R.0 (I)/2009, of July 30, 2009, issued by Ministry of Port & Shipping which restricts such transportation.

In accordance with Article 58(1) of UNCLOS in the exclusive economic zone, all States, whether coastal or land-locked, enjoy, subject to the relevant provisions of this Convention, the freedom of navigation and over flight and of the laying of submarine cables and pipelines, and other internationally lawful uses of the sea related to these freedoms, such as those associated with the operation of ships, aircraft and submarine cables and pipelines, and compatible with the other provisions of the Convention. UNCLOS does not allow states reservations on the Convention which requires it to be ratified in toto. It does however provide for declaration as to the understanding of the UNCLOS in terms of its Article 287 & 298.

The provisions of the Convention on the law of the sea do not, in any way, authorize the carrying out, in the EEZ, and in the continental shelf of any coastal State, military exercise or maneuvers by other State, in particular where the use of weapons of explosives is involved, without the consent of the concerned coastal State.

It was apprised that it is a long established principle of customary international law that worships are a sovereign extension of a State and the doctrine of warship freedom was reiterated by the International Court of Justice in the case of Germany v/s Greece & Italy in 2012, which provides that equals cannot exercise jurisdiction over another equal. In accordance with article 58(2) of UNCLOS, Articles 88 to 1 15 and other pertinent rules of international law apply to the exclusive economic zone in so far as they are not incompatible with Part-V of UNCLOS.

Worships on the high seas have complete immunity from the jurisdiction of any State other than the flag Stale.

It was also apprised that the sovereignty of Pakistan extends to its internal waters and territorial sea as on land. Any person who commits an offence in the territorial sea may be arrested and tried under Pakistani Laws, if the offence is being committed to disturb the peace of the country or the good order of the territorial sea, or if the assistance of the local authorities has been requested by the master of the ship or by a diplomatic agent or consular officer of the flag state.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020