Two patrol vessels that cost government a combined N$226 million which were meant to protect the Namibian coastline and marine resources has now been virtually abandoned.
In many maritime regions of the world, Namibia included, illegal fishing has massively contributed to the depletion of fish stocks, especially in developing countries’ coastal waters. Last year government placed a three-year moratorium on pilchard fishing.
The Anna Kakurukaze Mungunda and Nathanael Maxuilili patrol vessels commissioned in 2004 and 2002 respectively currently stands deserted with only a few maintenance checks such as starting the engines and cleaning of the interior space being done. The vessels last went on patrol late in 2016, The Patriot can reveal.
Ministerial sources said the crew of the two vessels still report for duty at the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources’ regional headquarters in Walvis Bay, despite having no work to do.
“They merely come to the office to log in during the morning, hang around during the day until they knock-off in the afternoon.
They are basically paid for doing nothing,” said the source who preferred to remain anonymous due to fear of reprisal. The combined crew numbers is around 80.
Despite having a ministerial resource fund that is said to be housing billions, the country’s economic woes and failure to utilise the resource fund means the patrol vessels are now expensive white elephants.
The fisheries ministry has been in hot water since 2016 as it could not afford to pay its workers overtime on time. Many of the fisheries observers refused to work overtime without pay.
Officials at one stage went for more than five months without receiving their overtime payments.
In fact, some workers were owed more than N$100 000 in unpaid overtime.
Powerless fisheries inspectors
Namibia’s fisheries management policies aimed at curtailing trans-boundary fishery resources has been found wanting over the years.
A fisheries report titled ‘Urgent and Targeted Report on Fisheries’ compiled by the Law Reform and Development Commission found that fish stocks both within the State’s Exclusive Economic Zone and the adjacent high seas were at risk of being depleted mainly from overfishing and the prevalence of “illegal, unreported and unregulated” fishing in the high seas with migratory fish species and straddling stock.
The root cause of the crisis, stated the 2012 report, is because the United Nations Convention on the Law of The Sea(UNCLOS) failed to specify operational qualifications and the migratory habits of species, these shortcomings gave rise to the United Nations Fish Stock Agreement(UNFSA).
Fisheries Inspectors are under the Marine Resources Act, 2000 empowered to, without a warrant and at any time, board vessels, enter upon premises and inspect, seize items and even order the master of a vessel to transit at a specified port.
Whilst Fisheries Inspectors perform a quasi-police function, Fisheries Observers on the other hand observe and record data as to how marine resources are harvested, handled and processed; collect biological data and samples; and thereafter report to the Fisheries Observer Agency.
The report noted one concern: “The difficulty for Fisheries Inspectors however, is that they are not designated as Peace Officers under section 334(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977 (Act No. 51 of 1977). For both the Fisheries Inspectors as well as the Fisheries Observers, none of them are designated as Commissioners of Oath under the Justices of the Peace and Commissioners of Oaths Act, 1963 (Act No. 16 of 1963) so that they may certify documents including ship manifests and the like. The above incapacities impact the work of these officials under the Marine Resources Act, 2000.”
“Notwithstanding that the management, protection and utilization of the marine resources found in Namibia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is subject to the Marine Resources Act, 2000, there is need to ensure that other sector statutes and functionaries, such as the Minerals (Prospecting and Mining) Act, 1992 (Act No. 33 of 1992) and the Minister of Mines and Energy, exercise a consultative approach before granting Exclusive Prospecting Licenses (EPL’s) or Mining Licenses for mineral resources within the EEZ,” the report noted.