STATEMENT BY HIS EXCELLENCY, DR. HIFIKEPUNYE POHAMBA, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF NAMIBIA AND COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF THE NAMIBIAN DEFENCE FORCE ON THE OCASSION OF THE COMMISSIONING OF THE NAVAL BASE, NAVAL JETTY AND THE LOGISTICS SUPPORT VESSEL, THE NS ELEPHANT
07 SEPTEMBER 2012, WALVIS BAY, ERONGO REGION
I am honoured and privileged to be here this morning for a very historic occasion. This event is, indeed, special because it represents a triple celebration, namely, the naming and commissioning of Namibia’s New Naval Base; the commissioning of the Naval Jetty; and the commissioning of the Logistics Support Vessel, the “Elephant.”
The acquisition of these strategic assets is part of our ongoing commitment to strengthening our national institutions. As a maritime country, Namibia needs capacity, not only to protect our Exclusive Economic Zone, but also to respond to unforeseen events that may occur in our territorial waters.
The construction of the new Naval Base started in October 2002 and with the handing over of the jetty by the contractor in April 2012, the Naval Base, for all practical purposes, is now operational. The arrival of the new vessel, NS Elephant on our shores is a significant milestone in the development of the Namibian Navy in particular and the Namibian Defence Force in general. It represents a welcome boost to our capacity to ensure that our Navy has the right equipment to effectively and efficiently carry out the duties and responsibilities entrusted to it. This vessel is one such acquisition.
It joins another naval vessel, NS Brendan Simbwaye and the two Harbor Patrol Boats Möwe Bay and Terrace Bay which were recently acquired. Together, these ships and the men and women who sail in them constitute the frontline in the protection of our nation’s maritime interests, which form part of our sovereignty and territorial integrity. In addition, the vessel can be used for the transportation of cargo and troops, for offshore patrols, for high seas Search and Rescue Missions, for research as well as for the training of sailors. I have no doubt that the NS Elephant will live up to her name in terms of its strength and character, as a formidable asset in Namibia’s naval fleet.
I am proud to say that this vessel is operated by men and women of the Namibian Navy. This is testimony that the Namibian Defence Force and the Namibian Navy in particular, has been successful in training and imparting skills to our people who have now taken up duty as Navy Sailors. We are indeed proud of all of them.
Although the primary mission of the NDF, as enshrined in the Namibian Constitution, is to defend the territorial integrity and national sovereignty of Namibia, its secondary functions have increasingly gained prominence. Today, threats to national security have become varied and complex. Some of these threats transcend national borders. Addressing these threats requires cooperation among nations to jointly and collectively provide adequate responses and find lasting solutions. For Namibia, our point of departure is the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts by peaceful means in order to maintain peace and security in our region, the African Continent and around the world.
It is for this reason that Namibia co-operates with other Member States in SADC to maintain peace and security in our region. Equally, Namibia makes contributions towards global peace and security through the AU and the United Nations.
At AU and SADC levels, a number of agreements in the field of defence co-operation have been put in place. These include the Common African Defence and Security Policy, the SADC Mutual Defence Pact; and the SADC Maritime Security Strategy that was approved at the Summit of Heads of State in August 2011 in Luanda.
In recent times, piracy has become a real threat to maritime trade, especially in some parts of our continent. It disrupts trade and commerce, and it has become a notable threat to security.
The situation is exacerbated by political instability and eroded state control in some parts of our continent. This has allowed this phenomenon to grow over the years, which constitutes a major concern to many countries, including Namibia.
This ugly phenomenon should be firmly addressed within the framework of collective efforts and cooperation among Member States of SADC and the AU, with the support of the United Nations.
Our Government's commitment to the peace and security of the region has brought with it more obligations on the part of our defence force. This will require the recruitment and training of more young men and women, in order to be ready and able to serve when called upon to do so. I believe that in order to encourage the interest of young people in the area of sailing and marine aviation, the Ministry should consider organizing Career Fairs and Ship Visits for secondary school students who are the potential future sailors of Namibia.
These ceremonies represent an important milestone in the development of our maritime defence capabilities. I take this opportunity to congratulate Rear-Admiral Peter Vilho and his team on this sterling achievement. We wish you and the Namibian Navy fair winds and flowing seas. I would also like to congratulate our seamen and women; and especially Navy Captain Nehemiah Shikongo for sailing the NS Elephant flawlessly from China to Namibia.
It is now my honour to commission the Naval Base, and to name it in honour of the late Navy Captain Phestus Sacharia, the first commander of the NDF Maritime Wing. Similarly, I hereby place NS Elephant into commission. May this navy vessel and all who shall sail in her be guided by professionalism and dedication to the service of our nation.
I thank you.