Sisters in arms: 30 years of the Brazil-Namibia Naval Cooperation AgreementSisters in arms: 30 years of the Brazil-Namibia Naval Cooperation Agreement

Learn about the partnership that has promoted progress in the consolidation of the young African country and in the security of the South Atlantic

By First Lieutenant (T) Yan Carlôto and First Lieutenant (RM2-T) Thaís Cerqueira – Brasília, DF

On February 28, 1994, four years after gaining independence, Namibia gained control of the port city of Walvis Bay, which until then had remained under South African jurisdiction. The Namibian coast, made up almost entirely of the Namib Desert, now enjoyed a gateway to the Atlantic Ocean and it was through this immense sea that a successful partnership was formed: the Naval Cooperation Agreement between Brazil and Namibia – Brazil’s largest and longest-standing cooperation with an African country – which this month completed 30 years of positive results.

The first experience of its kind with an African country, this Cooperation Agreement was signed on March 4, 1994, and provides for support from the Brazilian Navy (MB) for the creation and development of the naval wing of the Namibian Defense Forces. This assistance is provided through training that includes initial military-naval training for officers and non-commissioned officers, as well as specialization, improvement and high military studies courses.

This investment in training military personnel enabled the Namibian Navy to be officially created in 2004. The MB trained 1,179 Namibian military personnel over a ten-year period, which corresponds to 90% of the African force. In 2009, the Marine Technical Advisory Group was established in Walvis Bay, enabling the training of 932 military personnel, which led to the creation of the Namibian Marine Corps in 2016.

The port town of Walvis Bay is located about 400 km from the country’s capital, Windhoek

A pioneering initiative

On March 2, 1994, the Brazilian Naval Force frigate “Niterói” was the first military ship to dock in Walvis Bay, after Namibia took possession of the city. On the same day, MB inaugurated the Naval Mission in Namibia, the forerunner of the Naval, Army and Air Force Defense Attaché, with the initial task of assisting in the implementation of the naval cooperation agreement.

Among the important cooperation projects was the start of the hydrographic survey of the Namibian coast, begun in 1997 by the MB hydrographic ship “Sirius”. The project resulted in the preparation of a nautical chart of the port of Walvis Bay and, subsequently, the formal presentation of the Namibian proposal for the limits of its Continental Shelf to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

In addition, MB was involved in supplying material and vessels to this new Force, such as the donation, in 2004, of the “Purus” corvette, the first warship of the Namibian Navy, which was named “NS Lt-Gen Dimo Hamaambo” (NS is an abbreviation for Namibian Ship). Also as a result of this partnership, the Brazilian naval industry supplied Namibia with the “Brendan Sinbwaye” patrol ship and two “Marlim” class patrol boats.

PASSEX (passing maneuver) between the NS “Brendan Simbwaye” (P11) and the Ocean Patrol Vessel “Araguari” (P122) – Image: Brazilian Navy

Personnel and operations

In this cooperation agreement, information is shared on two fronts: on Namibian soil, through the Naval Advisory Mission and the Marine Technical Advisory Group, located in Walvis Bay; on Brazilian soil, Namibian military personnel are offered courses every year at MB Instruction Centers, including the Naval School (EN), the Naval War College and the Admiral Alexandrino Instruction Center (CIAA). Five Namibian soldiers are currently on exchange in the Brazilian Navy, four at EN and one at CIAA.

In addition, as a result of this agreement, MB ships frequently visit Namibia in the context of international operational exercises taking place off the African coast, such as the Gran African Nemo, Obangame Express and GUINEX.

In 2022, the “NS Elephant” became the first Namibian ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean, when it took part in the celebrations of the Bicentenary of Brazilian Independence and was part of Operation “UNITAS LXIII”, which took place in Rio de Janeiro.

According to the Attaché in Namibia, Captain Rogério Machado, the depth of the Brazilian influence can be seen in the fact that the majority of command positions in the Namibian Navy are currently held by officers trained in Brazil, which means that the Portuguese language is widely used in the Force. “The Commander of the Namibian Navy himself and his Deputy (second in command) were trained at MB schools and are fluent in our language,” he says.

Over the years, the two navies have held joint exercises, personnel exchanges and ship visits, which has strengthened the bonds of friendship and trust. “Some may even think that Brazil and Namibia are separated by the sea, but it’s exactly the opposite, it’s the sea that has brought us together and provided, over these 30 years, this solid and successful partnership between our nations,” said the Attaché.

NS “Elephant”, in Rio de Janeiro, on the occasion of the Bicentenary of Brazilian Independence – Image: Brazilian Navy

Neighbors united by the ocean

In the National Defense Policy, the South Atlantic and the countries along the coast of Africa are defined as part of Brazil’s strategic environment. Brazil and Namibia also participate in the South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone (ZOPACAS), established by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 41/11 in 1986, with the aim of promoting dialogue and cooperation between the 24 countries on both shores of the South Atlantic, especially on maritime issues, with a focus on maintaining peace and security in the region.

For Brazil’s Ambassador to Namibia, Vivian Loss Sanmartin, the Brazil-Namibia Naval Cooperation Agreement remains relevant “as Namibia embarks on a new phase of economic development by exploiting the abundant oil reserves recently discovered, the challenges relating to security in its offshore zone will require new actions and solutions. The Brazilian Navy, which has long been responsible for the safety of Brazil’s offshore oil and gas platforms, is ready to share its experience and knowledge with Namibia.”

In 2023, the member countries of ZOPACAS resumed their work in the forum, holding a meeting with the group’s members in April and a maritime symposium in October.

Source: Agência Marinha de Notícias *** Translated by DEFCONPress FYI Team ***

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