Royal Navy warship HMS Argyll has paid a visit to Walvis Bay, Namibia, to enhance relations with the Namibian Navy and support British business interests.
HMS Argyll’s port stop was the first to the country by a Royal Navy ship for eight years, the last being HMS Edinburgh, and it proved to be a real success. Namibia has had full independence from South Africa since 1990 and prior to the First World War was a German imperial protectorate. Namibia has a population of 2.1 million people and a stable multi-party parliamentary democracy. Agriculture, herding, tourism and the mining industry – including mining for gem diamonds, uranium, gold, silver, and base metals – form the backbone of Namibia’s economy and consequently British business interests continue to grow in the country.
With the visit only lasting two days the busy programme included charity work, football and golf fixtures, shark fishing and a formal reception as well as the multitude of calls the Commanding Officer pays to local military and civil dignitaries during port visits.
Commander Tim Neild, the Commanding Officer of HMS Argyll, said: “I am delighted to bring Argyll in to Namibia in support of FCO initiatives. The opportunity to work alongside our Namibian partners gives us a chance to meet one another face to face and share our unique experiences whilst demonstrating our breadth of capability. In doing so it builds mutual understanding and garners support in ensuring that Maritime Security is assured in the region.”
Once alongside a team of 10 willing volunteers headed off to complete an afternoon’s work at a local animal sanctuary as part of an Outreach programme. The sanctuary is home to a large number of stray cats and dogs many of which are in a poor physical state. The work included the painting and restoration of a building intended for the housing of the distressed animals. Argyll’s sailors were assisted by children from the local community who spend many hours helping at the sanctuary and were delighted to have the extra help.
Engineering Technician Dominic Mitchell said: “It was great to be able to help make a difference to the lives of the poor animals. Some of the animals were in a very bad way but hopefully the work we have done will make them more comfortable before they are re-homed.”
On the sporting front, Argyll’s football team tested their skills against a Namibian Navy team. Unfortunately the match was played in the middle of a sandstorm and, with the opponents more used to the testing conditions, the eventual result was a 3-1 victory to the hosts.
Steward Tony Biggar, the Royal Navy Under-19 central midfielder, said: “I’ve never played football in a sandstorm so it was a real experience. Their team was really strong so we can’t just use the weather as an excuse though.”
HMS Argyll’s golf team also hit the greens once again with a round at one of the world’s five all grass desert courses. The course was particularly notable due to the large numbers of Springboks and other animals which were wandering freely around the course clearly not deterred by the human presence. Leading Seaman Ed McFarlane led the way with an impressive 42 points in the Stableford competition.
The Namibian coast line provided the once in a life time opportunity for a number of Argyll’s crew to go shark fishing from one of the local beaches. There was no need for the team to come back with tales of the one that got away as six out of the ten fishermen caught sharks ranging from 50-70 kilos. After the customary photographs all sharks were returned unharmed to the sea.
Leading Regulator Nathan Blight said: “I’ve never even been fishing before so for a first experience to actually land a shark is one of the best feelings I’ve ever had! My shark was the second biggest of the day, although I thought it was the biggest, and weighed about 65 kilos. It took me over 40 minutes to bring in and I was absolutely exhausted afterwards.”
On the final evening in Walvis Bay a formal reception was held onboard with the British High Commissioner Her Excellency Mrs Marianne Young as the guest of honour. Commander Neild gave the opening address to the large party of military, business and diplomatic guests before the customary ceremonial sunset added some true British style and panache to close out the evening.
British High Commissioner Mrs Marianne Young said: “The visit of HMS Argyll is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate in a very tangible way that the UK is fully committed to supporting our partner nations in their efforts to enhance security, stability and prosperity globally. I look forward to continuing such activities that strengthen the bond between the UK, Namibia, and other countries in the region.”
As Argyll sails from Walvis Bay she looks forward to a two week maintenance period which will prepare the ship for the second half of her seven months deployment whilst the ship’s company will get the opportunity to recharge its batteries and take some well deserved leave.
On completion of her tasking in the Atlantic, the ship will undertake a number of important regional engagement visits before returning to her Devonport home in the autumn.