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Malawi Maritime Wing

Malawi is a landlocked country, but it does have a "Naval Unit" which operates on Lake Nyasa/Malawi (one of the largest lakes in Africa). The geography of Malawi is dominated by Lake Malawi, which stretches down most of the eastern side of the country. The lake is a beautiful setting for many activities and also provides approximately 85 percent of the freshwater tropical aquarium fish in the world.

As a landlocked country, Malawi has a very small Navy with no sizeable military craft. Malawi's naval force only operates on Lake Malawi and is based at Monkey Bay. The Malawi Navy was organized in the early 1970s, with the help of the Navy of Portugal that ceded part of its boats of the Nyassa Flotilla operating from the then Portuguese province of Mozambique. In 2007, it had 220 personnel.

The current boundary between Malawi and Tanzania, which granted Malawi the lake up to the shoreline, was established by agreement between the British and Germans during the colonial period and had been upheld repeatedly since then under the OAU/African Union principle of maintenance of colonial-era boundaries.

The Lake is a continuation of the great rift that runs down East Africa. Lake Nyasa is 348 miles long, and at its widest part only 55 miles wide (roughly, twice as much as the English Channel) at its narrowest fourteen miles. Located at the southern end of the East African Rift Valley (9S-14S), Lake Malawi's great depth (max. of 700 m), extent (more than 580 km long), and prolonged stratification with anoxic bottom waters assure well preserved, at times laminated, sediments recording regionally-significant southern hemisphere climate signals. The lake has its outlet in the Shire River, which discharges into the Zambezi River.

The term Nyasa in Chiyao meant the lake in English. The lake is subject to somewhat changeable winds. During the dry season from May to August there is a south wind known locally as mwera. The phenomena differ with the locality. Squalls of very fine rain take place in the evening. The Portuguese knew of the Lake and came to it up the Zambesi in quite early times; but they only came on visits, they made no settlements. The first man to make it known to Britain was Dr. Livingstone, who journeyed to Nyasa in 1859.

Fish in Malawi are significant contributors to both global biodiversity and local food security. Fish provide an estimated 28% of the countrys animal protein supply and are critical for nutrition and food security. Malawi has about 4% of the worlds fish species and 14% of all known freshwater fish species; Lake Malawi alone is home to about 800 fish species, 95% of which are endemic.

About 23% of Malawians are undernourished and 47% of children are stunted. Stunting rates are highest among children ages 18-23 months at 61%. Additionally, 13% of children are underweight. Fish play an important role in combating food insecurity, as they are a significant source of protein, vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients. Fish provide 28% of the countrys animal protein supply and are critical for the health and nutrition of Malawians, especially for rural communities and those living around lakes.

Lake Malawi contributes the majority (75%) of the total annual catch for the country. The southeast arm of the lake has the most nutrient-rich water, supports a richer fishery, and has the highest productivity per unit area; this arm alone contributes over 25% of the total catch in Malawi. Yet, the lake is facing significant strain due to increasing demand for fish and overexploitation of fish stocks. Schistosomiasis s (i.e., "snail fever" or "bilharzia") is a parasitic infection caused by trematodes (flukes). Humans are infected through skin contact with free-swimming cercariae which develop in freshwater snails. Schistosomiasis has been endemic to Malawi for several decades, but the open waters and shores of Lake Malawi had long been thought to be risk-free with regard to schistosomiasis transmission. But seroprevalence was 32% among expatriates whose freshwater exposure was limited to Lake Malawi. The risk of seropositivity increased with the number of freshwater exposures at Lake Malawi resorts. While many resort areas in the southwestern lake region posed a significant risk, Cape Maclear was the location most strongly associated with seropositivity. Treatment with a single dose of praziquantel (40-60 mg per kg body weight) is safe and effective therapy.

Limited freight and passenger services are offered on Lake Malawi. There is a shipyard and workshops at Monkey Bay, and nine vessels (of which five are operational). The vessels have capacity to transport containers, petroleum products, and passengers through the ports of Chilumba and Chipoka on Lake Malawi, including stops in Tanzania and Mozambique. Concessionaire Mota-Engil managed both lake services and ports.

The Malawi Army Naval Detachment had 4 patrol craft as of 1990 (of which 3 were operational), with approximately 60 combat trained and 42 support personnel stationed at Monkey Bay on Lake Malawi. Two patrol boats were acquired from the Portuguese, one 36-foot landing craft was of unknown origin, and the most recent acquisition was a 65-foot patrol boat from France. The sale of another French patrol boat was in the works, but no arrival date had been specified.

The Naval Detachment also maintained the President's boat, a small fiberglass coupe, and one additional fiberglass boat. In 1982, the detachment purchased six inflatable assault boats with twin 50-hp. outboard engines. The detachment had received some training and maintenance supprt from South Africa. The detachment also had two trained scuba divers had limited amounts of scuba equipment. The Naval Detachment conducted limited patrols on Lake Malawi, an area of increasing interest because of potential gas and oil deposits under the lake.

In the past, Lake Malawi had been the cause of territorial disputes between Tanzania and Malawi. Malawi shares the lake with Mozambique, but does not recognize a Tanzanian territorial claim to any part of the lake. Due to its low priority, the Naval Detachment lacked operational equipment, training, and maintenance funds to operate or repair patrol boats. Even with the addition of the 65-foot patrol craft from France, the unit had only a limited capability to patrol Lake Malawi.

Four patrol boats donated to the Malawi Defense Force (MDF) by Taiwan for use on Lake Malawi were due to arrive in the Mozambique port of Nacala on 07 September 2007. According to MDF Commander, General Marko Chiziko, the boats had not arrived because of the refusal of the GRM to honor an agreement to allow the MDF to transport the boats through Mozambican territory. While the GRM told the GOM that the boats were too heavy and would damage Mozambican roads, Chiziko believed it was really pressure from the People's Republic of China (PRC) that is stopping the transport of the boats. The boats weighed 52 tons each and that transportation by road was likely the only option to get the boats into Malawi.

The main purpose of the four patrol boats would be to help stop the flow of illegal immigrants across Lake Malawi. Young males, primarily from the Horn of Africa, have been flowing into Malawi through both the land border with Tanzania and across the lake. Most of the men show up without travel documents, or with passports that have no stamps in them. Most were from Eritrea or Somalia and claimed either to be deserters or to be fleeing threats of forced conscription. The MDF reported that as many as 100 individuals of this type have entered Malawi on a single day and are dispersing into villages in the northern part of the country.

In November 2013 the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) Marine Unit commissioned seven new e 8.5 meter Guardian BR850 interceptor boats from Nautic Africa, which were deployed on Lake Malawi. They were commissioned by President Joyce Banda last week at their Monkey Bay base, on the shore of Lake Malawi. The boats weree used to patrol the lake, and also engage in VIP transport/escort, search and rescue and disaster relief operations. The Malawi Defence Forces maritime wing previously had only a few patrol boats in its inventory, including a couple of armed launches, a dozen Zodiacs and several small patrol craft, including two Namacurras donated by the South African Navy.

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Page last modified: 09-05-2017 16:34:56 ZULU