Port security strengthened
Combating illicit trade
26 September 2021 | Infrastructure
Maureen Hinda-Mbuenda; Deputy minister; “… 152 containers of timber intercepted that are still under investigation.”
Namibia is the first country in SADC that boasts a Container Control Programme (CCP) funded by the United States government to the tune of US$720 000.
The joint initiative delivered by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Customs Organization (WCO) aims to assist countries in enhancing border and trade supply chain security, while facilitating legitimate trade.
The Port Control Unit located at the Port of Walvis Bay, is jointly administered by officials from NamRA, Namport, the ministry of environment, forestry and tourism, and the Namibian police force.
In countries where this programme is being administered, has resulted in seizures of a wide range of prohibited goods.
These include weapons and ammunition, proceeds of fisheries, forest, wildlife and other environmental crime, prohibited drugs, strategic goods, falsified or unlicensed medicines, precursors for drugs and explosives, cigarettes, alcohol, stolen vehicles and goods that are counterfeit or otherwise violate intellectual property law.
Sinikka Antila, the ambassador of the European Union, said the EU is investing €30 million to counter the illegal killing and trafficking of wildlife in Southern, Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean.
“From this amount, €17 million supports the cross-regional wildlife conservation in Eastern and Southern African and the Indian Ocean Programme.”
She said this programme is implemented by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals.
“It is within this context that the European Union is co-funding the implementation of the CCP in Namibia,” explained Antila.
She emphasised that Namibia is a key player in the fight against the transnational organised crime in particular related to wildlife and forest products due to its geographical location and richness.
According to the American Embassy, Namibia has been severely affected – both as a source and transit for wildlife and forest products trafficking.
In 2017, an estimated 250 to 300 containers of raw timber (logs) left the port of Walvis Bay for China every month.
Most of the logs were harvested in South-Eastern Angola, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), countries that have banned the export of raw logs. Illegal trade of pangolins, one of the world’s most trafficked animals, has been identified in Namibia.
Jessica Long, the US Chargé d’ Affairs, explained that the idea of implementing the Container Control Programme in Namibia began in September 2019, when officials from Namport, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and US Customs and Border Protection conducted a two-day assessment of smuggling in the region.
“That assessment led the US Department of State to approve funding for the UNODC Container Control Programme. Fighting global illegal trade networks and protecting Namibia’s wildlife are key goals of the US Embassy’s diplomatic engagement with Namibia.”
According to her, the initiative is a blow to criminals who would try to use Walvis Bay as a smuggling route.
“An advantage of the Container Control Program is that it will make for a safer port, which will encourage companies seeking legitimate business and trade.”
Maureen Hinda-Mbuende, the deputy minister of finance, hailed the programme as yet another milestone in the implementation of the Customs Modernisation Programme.
“This unit will afford us as a country, an opportunity to reform and secure not only our trading environment, but also the entire Trade Facilitation spectrum. It is a known fact that the Southern Africa region is beset with the challenges that impact on the pace of movement of cargo, which ultimately affects intra-regional trade levels.”
The deputy minister highlighted some successes that were recorded from the pre-operation phase of the unit.
“This includes penalties for non-declaration issued and subsequently paid, uncertified medicine valued at N$2 375 000 detained and seized as well as 152 containers of timber intercepted that are still under investigation.”
Namibia has also developed and adopted governance frameworks required to strengthen cooperation and collaboration.
“These include a Memorandum of Understanding between the Namibian Government and UNODC to facilitate the implementation of programme, operational frameworks to guide the CCP unit officials in executing the mandate and terms of reference for the management committee that has been developed. All officials were trained for the programme.”