The Namibian Revenue Authority (NamRa) on Friday, 24 September officially launched the Container Control Programme at Walvis Bay Port.
The programme will improve the port’s ability to interdict illegally smuggled goods, including wildlife and forest products. The programme has two objectives; to establish multi-agency Port Control Units (PCU) and provide advanced training to PCU officials, and to strengthen international cooperation by connecting the Walvis Bay PCU to international law enforcement entities and the global network of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) PCUs.
The programme is a UNODC initiative that enables front-line officers to stop illicit trafficking, especially of wildlife and forest products. The United States government will fund the programme with a US$720,000 pledge
According to the UN, up to 90 percent of world cargo movement occurs in shipping containers but less than 2 percent is physically inspected by customs authorities to verify the contents. Partly for this reason, containers are used on a large scale for illegal activities, such as the smuggling of protected wildlife and timber products.
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. The illegal trade of pangolins, one of the world’s most trafficked animals, has been identified in Namibia.
U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Jessica Long joined Governor of the Erongo Region Neville Andre Itope, Minister of Finance Ipumbu Shiimi, Ambassador to the European Union Sinikka Antila, UNODC CCP Regional Coordinator Javier Montano, and Commissioner of NamRA, Sam Shivute at the program launch today at Walvis Bay Port.
In her remarks, Chargé Long explained that the idea of implementing the Container Control Programme in Namibia began in September 2019, when officials from NamPort, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection conducted a two-day assessment of smuggling in the region. That assessment led the U.S. Department of State to approve funding for the UNODC Container Control Programme launched today.
“Fighting global illegal trade networks and protecting Namibia’s wildlife are key goals of the U.S. Embassy’s diplomatic engagement with Namibia,” explained Chargé Long. “This initiative is a blow to criminals who would try to use Walvis Bay as a smuggling route. Another advantage of the Container Control Program is that it will make for a safer port, which will encourage companies seeking legitimate business and trade.”
The UNODC has already implemented the Container Control Programme in more than 50 countries.