Namport has attained an almost unparalleled national mystique. Top-notch performers amongst the country’s parastatals don’t come by often.
But for the national port authority, it is an all or nothing game, if Namibia wants to fully tap into its ocean economy.
Although fishing harbours in Namibia are privately managed by fishing companies, they cannot export their products without the services of Namport.
Namport is mandated to provide a number of services to the fishing industry simply because it is the port of export for Namibia. All fishing companies use the port to export their products from Namibia to the rest of the world by sea.
As for the landlocked destinations, exports take place by road to countries like Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zambia.
Namport also provides ship repair facilities to vessel owners.
The port also has a syncrolift. A syncrolift is a system for lifting boats and ships out of the water for maintenance work or repair. The vessel is manoeuvred over a submerged cradle, which is then lifted by a set of synchronized hoists or winches.
Namport is directly and indirectly linked to the fishing sector, as well as the broader port community.
The port also owns cold storage facilities which are managed by private companies where fish is stored on the port premises until they are ready for to be exported.
“Well fishing wise, all fishing companies come through the port directly or indirectly. All fishing companies that are into the export business are our clients in one way or another,” said Namport CEO Bisey Uirab.
In recent years Namport has been on a major expansion drive, Uirab explained how it will impact the fishing sector going forward.
“Obviously if you provide efficient services to your customers you will see that more and more people will come here to do business. And fishing companies will benefit from there. The more vessels that come here the lower the rates that are charged for cargos that leave Namibia, so the fishing companies will have better rates as the ports grows,” he said.
As we deepen the entrance channel, he said, “we automatically improve the facilities that we provide that will subsequently attract modern fishing vessels.
As is the case with all the other ports within the region, we see bigger vessels coming to African ports. Therefore there is a big demand from the shippers or the shipping lines for continuous upgrades on infrastructure, baiting facilities, bigger cranes and deeper entry channels. This shows that the port expansion has a direct impact on fishing companies,” he said.
Uirab’s championing of port safety was evident when speaking of the measures the port authorities have taken over the years to boost safety levels.
At the moment the type of crimes committed are petty offences such as somebody stealing fish or someone trying to break into a vehicle – it is in essence not major offences or organised crime in nature.
“In terms of big crimes we have not really experienced that in long time. What we have done is provide a building for the Namibian police and we are working closely with them. So there is a police station inside the port, we have also bought four sniffer dogs. Also we have not have any incident where we have discovered significant drugs in the port “, responded Uirab.
Overall, said Uirab: “I am very happy with the level of security that we provide. You may recall that about five years ago there where instances where some containers were smuggled out of the port, I can confidently say that we have dealt with that challenge decisively. We have increased our security systems in the port and we have also recruited Commissioner Festus Shilongo, one of the top policemen in the country, to head the security operations of the port.”
Just recently, Namport was in the news for appealing that its security teams be permitted to have arresting powers.
“It is not always the case that we have law enforcers in all corners of the port, so even when Namport protection officers see someone committing a crime, they can only apprehend a suspect and hand them over to Nampol for further action to be taken,” he said.
Uirab said the port’s security systems have been revamped and the company has formulated a five year strategic intervention on security and CCTV cameras have been installed all over the port “to keep security threats to the very minimum.”
For total safety on the port, “a pivotal stakeholder in the management of Namibia’s marine ecosystem is Namport, which must ensure that vessels have a functional, efficient and safe facility to move marine products from sea to land.”
Like any operation, challenges are not a stranger in the room, and when asked if Namport faces any pertinent challenges, Uirab was quick to respond “yes”.
Dealing with the challenge presented by the NamPort establishment act, Uirab commented that “I mean this act was passed in 1994, we are currently in the process of amending some of the Act, because the industry has moved on so we would want to amend the Act for Namport. One of the key issues that we are looking at is that at the moment we are both a port authority and terminal operator. That is one aspect we want to look at in terms of amending. One of the challenges of playing both roles is that it creates a perception that there are no checks and balances. One of the benefits, however, is that you have some economy of scale,” he said.
All things considered, said Uirab, the intervention to change the Act to meet the needs of the company at this point in time might be the best possible avenue to ensure efficiency and effectiveness at the port.
“There is a general perception in our country that we should not look at having these PPP arrangements in our state owned entities which a personally feel is not right. I think we have laws and we can have good agreements that will protect our people from exploitation so that our country does not lose out while keeping up with international trends,” he said.
The Namport boss has called for more cooperation between industry players.
“If you are in a close environment you need to players to work together, there are some basic rules, regulations and guidelines that we as a port are supposed to enforce, like ensuring that fishing companies adhere to Namport guidelines on the way operations should be conducted,” said Uirab.
He added: “Secondly we would like them to collaborate with us in terms of ship repairs and engage with our team that is responsible for ship repair and maintenance so that we can make sure that vessels are always ready to go to sea on time.”
Fishing companies should not only place emphasis on forging a good relationship with Namport, said Uirab.
“They must also cooperate with the Custom and Excise officials, this is primarily key to ensure that Namibia benefits from its resources through taxes,” he said.