70 percent of the Earth comprises water and the 30 percent of dry land. It is the inquisitive nature of humans which leads us to explore ways to utilise all channels and forms of communication. History suggests that prior to land routes, man travelled through the sea to explore the world and reconnoitre how maritime activities can be fruitful for humans. Certainly, with the passage of time, when territorial waters were identified and sea routes to many states were explored, it generated clashes and disputes regarding the distribution of resources and the thirst to control each other. In modern day history, Alfred Thayer Mahan, US Naval Strategist, suggested that, “Whoever rules the waves, rules the world” thus highlighting the importance of sea power and the maritime domain.

Every year, on September 24, the World Maritime Day is observed with an objective to highlight the crucial role of the maritime industry and to underline the importance of maritime security, environment, safety, and shipping. ‘Sustainable shipping for a sustainable planet’ is the World Maritime theme for 2020. According to the UN, this will provide an opportunity to raise awareness of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and showcase the work that the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and its Member States are undertaking to achieve targets. The IMO has devised a strategy and regulatory framework to give a boost to the shipping industry and have a sustainable future. In this regard, IMO has adopted and will continue to develop measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions, reduce the sulphur content of ships’ fuel oil, implement the Ballast Water Management Convention, protect the polar regions, reduce marine litter, improve the efficiency of shipping through the electronic exchange of information, meet the challenges of the digitisation of shipping and enhance the participation of women in the maritime community.

The maritime industry has many extensive domains which give support to any country’s financial pillars and thus, it is often coined with the term ‘Blue Economy’. The concept of Blue Economy exemplifies industries like ports, shipping companies, energy and renewable energy sector, fisheries, maritime transportation, tourism, climate change and waste management, to name a few in the list. Considering the importance of the maritime industry, the government of Pakistan declared 2020 as the year of the Blue Economy so that Pakistan can make best use of maritime potentials laying in its more than 1000 kilometres long coast alongside Arabian Sea. In the past few years, Pakistan, through the CPEC venture, is seeing rapid development in terms of infrastructure and many projects can work out in the domain of maritime like marine food processing chain, exploring Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), LPG & LNG terminals, coastal development plans and the shipping industry. Maritime transport is considered as the cheapest method of moving cargo in bulk, especially in developing countries, as low cost with efficient maritime transport helps in sustainable development. Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works is Pakistan’s largest ship building, ship repair and heavy engineering organisation which also contributed in laying down the groundwork for submarines in Pakistan. The presence of operational ports in Karachi, Port Muhammad Bin Qasim, Pasni harbour, Ormara Port and now Gwadar Port in Balochistan, enhance Pakistan’s maritime assets.

Generally speaking, maritime is often confused with the navy. Maritime is a comprehensive domain which involves all elements of sea power including ports, harbours, ocean’s economic resources and maritime military forces. However, the navy is a one-armed force whose purpose is to ensure safety and security against any kind of military aggression in one’s territorial waters. Pakistan has an outstanding naval force which is reflected by their fearlessness, commitment to profession, exceptional training, professional competence and valour whenever required. The Pakistani navy has gone beyond its role of defending sea frontiers and always led from the front in any kind of disaster relief activities, health camps, educational facilities, vocational training and humanitarian assistance.

No doubt, oceans have always played an important role in shaping the geopolitics of any region. Apart from the economic benefits, oceans are critical for the sustainability of littoral states. Additionally, in present times where oil is used as a weapon in international politics, the importance of oceans and maintaining a balance of power in any particular expanse cannot be ruled out. The Indian Ocean is the third largest ocean, having energy-rich littoral states, but this region has become more militarised with the presence of great powers and also nuclearised with Indian hegemonic designs and the naval military build-up in the Indian Ocean region. Undoubtedly, such militarisation changes the maritime environment as well as the dynamics of security, economy and climate. Pakistan, while understanding its pivotal role in IOR, presented the ‘Maritime Doctrine of Pakistan-Preserving Freedom of Seas’ in 2018 with the purpose of providing an understanding to all stakeholders on the distinctive attributes of the national maritime sector and the role that the Pakistan navy has to play. It addresses both the military and non-military attributes of Pakistan’s maritime region and offers areas of awareness, research, development and cooperation in maritime and with friendly navies. Pakistan, being a gateway to Central Asian Republics, has moderate temperature of water in its seas which makes it accessible throughout the year. The Ministry of Maritime Affairs and other maritime related organisations like National Maritime Affairs Coordination Committee, National Institute of Oceanography, Pakistan Maritime Security Agency, Pakistan Coast Guard and other think tanks are working in their respective research and operational domains to overcome the aspect of sea-blindness in Pakistan.

With the changing global scenario and political intrusions, the maritime realm faces a lot of challenges. Still, it is a thriving force for countries leading to stability and affluence. Militarisation, piracy, climate change, terrorism, drug trafficking, human smuggling, illegal movements are some factors which can be controlled by countries to enhance the economy, tourism, and industrial resources in maritime.