China boosts Nam’s maritime capabilities

Nov 03, 2017
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Andreas Thomas

Walvis Bay – China continues to help Namibia strengthen its maritime capabilities, following the latest gift of two naval ships to the Namibian Defence Force that were inducted into active service on October 27.

The two offshore patrol boats, the NS Daures and NS Brukkaros, were inducted into the Namibian navy during a commissioning ceremony at the naval base in Walvis Bay.

The event was witnessed by President Hage Geingob, Minister of Defence Penda Ya Ndakolo, Chinese Ambassador to Namibia Zhang Yiming as well senior military officers from Namibia, Brazil, China, India, Zambia, Botswana, South Africa and other countries.

Through defence and security cooperation, China has played a major role in the development and transformation of the Namibian navy since its formation in 2004 through technical and material support.

Over the years, China has provided military training and supplied military equipment to the Namibian Defence Force (NDF) and the handing over of the two patrol boats to the defence force is an important milestone in the long history of relations between China and Namibia.

China provided diplomatic and material support to Namibia during its independence struggle against the apartheid South African regime.

In 2014, China’s People’s Liberation Army donated two submarine chasers, with modern surface and undersea target-attacking capability, to the NDF.

Before delivery, the two crafts underwent extensive hull refurbishment and equipment overhaul in August 2016, which was completed in May this year. The work was carried out by Chinese defence manufacturing company, Poly Technologies Inc.

In his speech during the commissioning, President Geingob commended China for its commitment towards Namibia, saying: “It is better to have one loyal friend than a hundred fair-weather friends”.

Geingob said the incorporation of the two naval boats into the Namibian navy would strengthen the country’s naval combat as well as augment its maritime patrol and surveillance capability.

“Our maritime economy is a major contributor to job creation and economic growth. Given our large coastline, the navy faces a huge challenge in ensuring that it protects the country against any and all maritime threats.

“It is, therefore, of paramount importance that we continue to increase our naval capabilities.

“Our navy must be responsive to the challenges of maritime responsibility and our officers must at all times be ready to defend and protect Namibia’s territorial waters and harbours, which are not only valuable assets to Namibia, but the SADC region as a whole since they present a gateway into the region,” Geingob said.

Defence Minister Ya Ndakolo described the two sea crafts as important naval assets acquired as part of the overall strategy of the Ministry of Defence to guarantee Namibia’s sovereignty.

On his part, Ambassador Zhang noted that military cooperation deepened after Namibia attained independence in March 1990 and has since become an important part of the two countries’ friendly relations.

“We’ve seen frequent exchanges of all levels of pragmatic cooperation in the fields of military aid, trade and capacity building between the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and the Namibian Defence Force.

“I am informed that most equipment of the Namibian navy and air force comes from China. What’s more, China for these years has reinforced training and as a result, hundreds of professionals from the NDF got trained,” said the Chinese Ambassador.

NS Brukkaros and NS Daures that carry up to 38 seamen each, joined the national naval fleet that consists of other modern ships, including the NS Elephant, a logistics support vessel also from China that was commissioned in 2012. The fleet also consists of other naval ships and smaller crafts from countries like Brazil, Germany and South Africa.

“The hulls of the two patrol boats were donated by the Chinese government and have been elaborately refitted by Poly Technologies to give them modern combat capabilities, which I believe can be strong fists of the Namibian Navy, safeguarding Namibia’s marine sovereignty and interests.

“As an all-weather friend, China would like to assist Namibia with whatever we could, and make new contributions to the traditional friendship between our two countries,” Zhang said.

At the same ceremony, First Lady Monica Geingos was named Godmother of NS Daures and Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila for NS Brukkaros.

Naming women as godmothers of ships is a long-standing ritual in the christening of the vessels, which involves the breaking of a sacrificial bottle of champagne over the bow of the ships.

Urban and Rural Development Minister Sophia Shaningwa and Christine //Hoebes, a deputy minister in the prime minister’s office, stood in for Geingos and Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.

The commissioning ceremony of the new naval ships coincided with the belated celebration of the thirteenth anniversary of the Namibia Navy Day, which is remembered annually on October 7.

The navy commander, Rear Admiral Sinsy Ndeshi Bamba Ngipandwa, said Navy Day was a time of reflection on the past and recognition of the “impact we made”.

The Namibian Navy was commissioned to service level in October 2004 from the Maritime Wing of NDF that was established in September 1998. The history of the Namibian Navy dates back to 1994, following a naval cooperation agreement between Namibia and Brazil.

“Thirteen years down the line, we have successfully produced professionals, capable of operating ships and man onshore support infrastructures,” Admiral Ngipandwa.

Maritime patrols have been taking place from the Orange River in the south to Cunene River up north. The navy is also responsible for protecting the country’s exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles, one of the most productive fishing grounds in the world.

“The importance of Namibia’s maritime economy, the potential maritime threats the country may face and the maritime challenges Namibia faces have dictated that we act promptly and prudently to develop a navy that is defensive and responsive,” said the navy commander.

“Through thick and thin, we have come where we are today. However, we still have a long way to go with the acquisition of required capabilities and the operationalisation of the fleet, as competing resources do not allow us to move at the development pace we have projected,” he said.

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