Namibia currently has no institution that provides dedicated education and training in maritime fields at bachelor or postgraduate degree level.
This was said by the CEO of Debmarine Namibia, Otto Shikongo, recently when the company donated benthic samples worth N$9.9 million and N$250,000 towards the University of Namibia's School of Marine Engineering and Maritime Studies and the Centre for Mining and Metallurgical Research Training, as well as the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources.
These samples can be used to build up a reference collection or used as teaching aids.
Debmarine Namibia's benthic monitoring programme assesses the effect of mining operations on the benthic communities of Atlantic 1 Mining Licence Area and monitors the time of recovery after mining.
On an annual basis during the period October to December, benthic samples are collected from designated control, impact and natural variability sites, across the mining licence area.
Shikongo said aspiring Namibian youth interested in pursuing maritime careers often go to other countries to obtain their qualifications.
"As one of the main players in this industry, we are faced with challenges of a shortage of qualified and competent skills in this area," he noted.
He said Debmarine relies heavily on developing its own talent resource pool, through their trainee and long-term trainee programmes in which they invest significantly.
Currently, they manage and maintain a fleet of six diamond-mining vessels.
He said each of these vessels is manned by captains working in two shifts of 28 days on, 28 days off.
Despite the challenges, he said Debmarine is proud to have developed seven home-grown Namibian captains that have passed through its training programme. It takes approximately 10 years to develop a marine captain.
Debmarine applauded Unam, supported by the Sam Nujoma Foundation, for the noble initiative to establish this much-needed institution, which it believes will grow the Namibian maritime talent pool, saying this will allow Namibia to compete on a global scale with other countries.
"We challenge Unam to remain dedicated and focused in delivering on this dream, by developing a curriculum and training facility of international standards and accreditation, which we can be proud of and the private sector can rely on," Shikongo said.
Unam Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs Professor Frednard Gideon said the funding has enabled the university to undertake needs analysis and feasibility studies for both projects in order to determine priority academic and research areas which would address the real, and not perceived, human resource development needs for the country.
The reports of the needs analysis for both projects will be presented during stakeholder workshops which are scheduled to take place in May this year.
Shikongo said the Debmarine mining process entails the removal of diamondiferous gravel from the ocean floor at depths of up to 140 metres, of which 80 percent is returned to the seabed. Debmarine Namibia works closely with the Benguela Current Commission, a multinational cross-sectoral initiative by Angola, Namibia and South Africa.
It initiated long-term joint research and monitoring projects with the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources to address issues of concern adequately.
Equally, he says, the mutually beneficial relationship between Debmarine Namibia and the fisheries ministry has highlighted the value and importance of partnerships between industry and academic and research institutions in Southern Africa.
"We benefit by ensuring that our environmental impact research is innovative and scientifically rigorous, while our partners benefit by the provision of opportunities for researchers and students to work on projects to enhance the understanding of the marine environment," he stated.