The Bangladesh Navy (Bengali: Bangladesh Nou Bahini) is the naval warfare branch of the Bangladesh Armed Forces, responsible for Bangladesh's 118,813 square kilometres (45,874 sq mi) of maritime territorial area, and the defence of important harbours, military bases and economic zones. The Bangladesh Navy mission is to safeguard the sovereignty over the internal waters & territorial sea, and sovereign rights over the Contiguous Zone, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Continental Shelf of Bangladesh while supporting riverine and maritime economic activities including free flow of riverine & sea borne trade. Since its inception BN has carried out many operations. It included both operations of liberation war and peace time operations.
During the Pakistan era (1947-71), the navy was accorded a low priority. Pakistani leaders were preoccupied with maintaining the West Wing's land defenses against India. The Mukti Bahini did not have a naval force, other than a few frogmen who sabotaged Pakistani merchant ships. Wartime naval operations, including an amphibious landing near Chittagong, were left entirely to the Indian Navy. As a result, at independence, Bangladesh inherited virtually nothing in the way of naval equipment or personnel.
Founded as a separate military service on April 7, 1972, the Bangladesh Navy started with a nucleus of twelve officers and 1,000 seamen, most of whom had served in the Pakistan Navy. Their equipment included six captured speedboats and some miscellaneous small arms. From these humble beginnings, the Bangladesh Navy grew into a coastal and riverine defense force estimated in 1988 to include 600 officers and 6,900 enlisted personnel. By 2010 the Navy's Service Personnel numbered about 15,000 (Including Officers), while the Civilian Personnel numbered about 4,000 (Including Civilian Officers).
The navy's center of operations and training was at the country's major port, Chittagong, where, in 1988, the new Bangladesh Naval Academy began its first academic year. Navy headquarter was in Dhaka. Smaller naval facilities were located at Kaptai and Khulna. In the late 1980s, the Bangladesh Navy had no air wing, marine corps, or reserves. The 2007 edition of Combat Fleets of the World reported that the Navy had plans to establish a battalion of Marines, but as of 2012 nothing seems to have come of this idea.
Roles and Missions of the Bangladesh Navy include:
- Safeguard/defend the territorial waters of Bangladesh.
- Keep the Sea Lines of Communications (SLOC) open during war & at peace.
- Keep the sea ports of Bangladesh open for shipping during a war.
- Protection of the Bangladesh fishing fleet.
- Patrolling in riverine waters of Bangladesh.
- Search and Rescue at sea.
- Cyclone warning for Naval Ships and craft.
- Protection of Bangladesh merchant ships in the high seas.
- Assist the civil administration in maintaining internal security and peace, whenever called for such duties.
- Assist the civil administration in the event of natural calamities like flood, cyclone, tidal waves, earthquake etc whenever called for such duties.
- Naval Control of Shipping (Internal and External, Inland or Foreign) Organization.
- Oceanographic survey.
- Any other task for which the government may deem it necessary to deploy the Navy.
The country's 600-kilometer coastline was patrolled by the tiny Bangladesh Navy, whose missions were to protect Bangladeshi fishermen, ward off foreign poachers, and assert sovereignty over the nation's territorial waters. As part of its policy of nonalignment, Bangladesh allowed foreign naval vessels to conduct routine port visits at Chittagong. Bangladesh has not granted naval base rights to any foreign power.
Since its inception BN has carried out many operations. It included both operations of liberation war and peace time operations. The war time operation involved conventional as well as unconventional operation. The peace time operation was mainly related to anti-smuggling, anti-piracy, fishery protection and many others involved in aid to civil power. However the remarkable operations are: Operation JACKPOT in liberation war; Operation NIRMUL, and Operation PROTIRODH.
Generally low lying, much of Bangladesh is occupied by the Ganges Delta, the confluence of the Padma (or Ganges), Jamuna (or Brahmaputra), and Meghna rivers. The floodplain sediments are locally known as chars. A potential challenge to the Bangladesh Navy occurred in 1983, when a char -- a speck of land formed by alluvial deposits -- emerged in the Bay of Bengal along the maritime boundary with India. Both India and Bangladesh dispatched patrol boats to stake their claims to the island and to the expanded 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone that went with it. The two sides avoided a military confrontation, and the matter was remanded to diplomatic negotiations. It was clear, however, that Bangladesh's coastal defense force was not in a position to challenge the Indian Navy.
In 2006 the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) labelled Chittagong the “most dangerous port in the world.” Vijay Sakhuja, of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, surmises that “piracy in Bangladesh waters has not attracted international attention primarily due to the fact that geographically, it does not sit astride any major sea-lane” and suggests that “this factor may explain the piracy problem.” While mooring lines and ship’s stores initially appeared to be favored targets, perhaps because they were portable and extremely easy to resell, since about 1998 zinc anodes became targets. Police attempts to halt maritime crime were temporary at best, Sisyphean at worst.
Maritime crime appears to be part of Bangladesh’s social and political fabric. The type and intensity of these activities vary widely within this fairly small region, from the pilfering of ship’s supplies and fittings, such as mooring lines and zinc anodes, to the theft of fish and nets, and finally to the hijacking of trawlers and the kidnapping of fishermen for ransom. Attacks on simple fishing boats in Bangladesh might in time grow to piracies against supertankers, as happened with piracy off Somalia.
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