UN Resident Coordinator, Mr Sen Pang and Sinikka Antila, EU ambassador to Namibia, are visiting the country’s largest port in Walvis Bay during which they will attend a National Level Meeting and the graduation of the latest UNODC training under the EU Programme on Port Security and Safety of Navigation.
The official engagement will also include a courtesy visit to the recently inaugurated Port Control Unit.
The EU-funded Port Security and Safety of Navigation Programme for Eastern and Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean support nine countries, including Namibia, in their goal to build up capacity for maritime and port security and strengthen law enforcement agencies. The four-year programme is coordinated by the Indian Ocean Commission and implemented in partnership with the International Maritime Organization and INTERPOL.
The visit comes at a critical time, particularly as the devastating pandemic posed logistical and operational challenges to global counter-terrorism and -crime responses and the Port Control Unit in Walvis Bay experienced its first operational weeks after its official launch in September.
The importance of Port Security and Safety of Navigation in Namibia
Namibia’s strategic location with the South Atlantic Ocean region makes its economy highly dependent on the sea and its ports. The country derives significant economic activity from industries such as fishing, offshore diamond mining and fruit harvesting and the ports of Walvis Bay and Luderitz, are essential hubs of such activity.
In order to increase maritime trade, bring the benefits that come with lower transportation costs and make exports more competitive, it is vital that Namibia finds a way to strengthen its compliance with international norms on port security and guarantee safe navigation.
The UNODC Global Maritime Crime Program
The Global Maritime Crime Program (GMCP) supports Namibia in enhancing its Maritime Law
Enforcement (MLE) capacity through training and mentorship initiatives. This includes regional self-sustaining Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) training and support for developing an advanced Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) capability to strengthen maritime situational awareness with the aim to counter illicit activity at sea.
During the last year, the UNODC GMCP provided regular training for more than 70 of Namibian representatives from Fisheries, Port Authority, Police, Revenue Agency, Navy, Special Forces and Ministry of Transport and Works. The training covers both practical and theoretical material with a focus on interagency collaboration and incident management – which also includes a security assessment of the port itself.
Most training focuses on the major port facility in Walvis Bay. In October this year, however, the UNODC GMCP expanded training further afield, undertaking its first capacity building activity in Namibia at the port of Lüderitz. After this successful start in Lüderitz, UNODC GMCP relocated to Walvis Bay and continues training for representatives of relevant enforcement agencies in the form of a two-week Port Security training between 8-18 November.
The Container Control Programme in Walvis Bay
The Container Control Programme (CCP) supports Namibia’s Walvis Bay seaport in its efforts to counter organized crimes in the maritime container trade. While most of the world’s raw materials today move through container trade, only 2% of containers worldwide are properly inspected. This leaves room for the illegal movement of supplies and illicit goods – particularly the smuggling of wildlife, timber trafficking and counterfeit medicines and COVID-19 vaccines in the case of Namibia.
Since the CCP’s implementation at Walvis Bay seaport in 2018, crucial improvements in law enforcement have been reached in partnership with the Namibian authorities through mentoring, webinars and training on risk management, cargo inspection, prevention of wildlife trafficking, and detecting counterfeit vaccines.
In September this year, another important step was reached through the official launch of the Port Control Unit (PCU) in Walvis Bay.
In her keynote speech, Maureen Hinda-Mbuende, Deputy Minister of Finance, commented, “This Unit will afford us as a country the opportunity to reform and secure not only our trading environment but also the entire trade facilitation spectrum. [… The early successes of the PCU] are a clear demonstration that the role of law enforcement agencies in combating illicit trade across the globe has become an important phenomenon in our lifetime and cannot be overemphasized.”
About the high-level visit of the UN Resident Coordinator and EU ambassador to Namibia
When visiting the port at Walvis Bay, Mr Sen Pang, the UN resident coordinator, and Her Excellency Sinikka Antila, EU ambassador to Namibia, will attend both events of the UNODC Global Maritime Crime Program and visits of the Port Control Unit.
Together, they will be present at the graduation ceremony of the most recent UNODC training under the EU Programme on Port Security and Safety of Graduation and participate in a National Level Meeting on Port Security. Mr Sen Pang and Her Excellency Sinikka Antila will pay a visit to the office of the Port Control Unit and the seaport, including the inspection of the day and the containers loaded with timber and the scanner area. In addition, the visit foresees a general exchange with representatives of relevant enforcement agencies working on port security in Walvis Bay.