Namibia faces piracy threats at sea, official

By Magreth Nunuhe

Swakopmund – Namibia holds the distinction as a country with no reported incident of piracy in its territorial waters since independence, but locally owned fishing vessels could come under pirate attack the country is not prepared for the worst case scenario possible, an official in the Office of Prime Minister has warned.

The chief policy analyst, Deon van Zyl,  told the Eighth Annual Logistics and Transport Workshop at Swakopmund on 29 September 2016 that one of Namibia’s other biggest threat is that Walvis Bay port on the south west coast has increasingly become important link in the Southern African supply chain.

Some three thousand ships call at the Walvis Bay port annually, while between 2006 to 2012 container ships docking increased by 212 percent from 279 to 594.

He said that until this year, South Africa had not reported any incident of piracy until this year when pirates attacked its vessels.

Nigeria has experienced the most attacks (24) on the west coast, while the DRC was second with two attacks this year.

South Africa, the Congo, Angola, Togo and Ivory Coast each experienced one attack this year.

Since 2011, there has been a steady increase in attacks in south-east Asia and a steady decrease in attacks near Africa.

Van Zyl noted that the five vessels most often attacked are chemical/product tankers, bulk carriers, oil tankers, container ships and cargo ships.

In order to circumvent piracy attacks, he said that Namibia needs to design a highly effective anti-piracy plan to raise awareness of security and identify institutional weaknesses to plan for risk assessment for each vessel and class.

He suggested putting in place effective reporting procedures to relevant authorities; that companies should plan for emergency response, as well as proper ship master’s planning and protection measures.

“If low and slow vessels become floating fortresses operated by multi-national companies, integrated with security equipment and guarded by armed security, pirates would opt to attack other vessels without military level protection,” said Van Zyl.

National and international organisations, according to Van Zyl, incur direct cost of naval operations, cost of prosecutions and the cost of piracy deterrence organisations.

According to Van Zyl, one vessel is attacked every 36 hours, while an estimated US$7 billion per annum is associated with pirate activity.

The direct costs for the organisation include physical and mental trauma suffered by mariners, crew compensation, ransom payments, insurance, rerouting of ships, fast-steaming, delayed cargo, and the cost of security equipment and personnel.

Piracy also has a bearing on macro-economic costs and impacts on regional trade, loss of foreign revenue and inflation, among others.

When it comes to the human cost, between 1 January 2010 and 30 June 2016, 3,642 sailors were taken hostage, 171 sailors were held for ransom, 159 sailors were injured, while 28 sailors were killed.

According to Van Zyl, hostages spend an average of 11 months in captivity, average 250 days to negotiate the release of a hijacked ship.

From 2005 to 2012 some US$413 million in ransom was paid. The logistics and transport workshop was hosted by the University of Namibia and the Namibian-German Centre for Logistics.