Debmarine Namibia’s new N$7 billion diamond recovery vessel this week departed on its month long maiden voyage to the Port of Cape Town, South Africa, where it will be fitted with mission equipment before beginning operations off Namibia’s coast early next year.
The vessel departed following the official handover held on 18 and 19 August at Damen Shipyards Mangalia in Romania.
According to a Debmarine Namibia statement, the successful delivery marks the end of a landmark project that began over two years ago.
“It is the first vessel to be delivered by Damen Shipyards Mangalia, the Romanian yard that joined the Damen group in 2018, to take on large and complex, engineered to order projects under the banner of the Mid-Sized Vessels division,” read the statement.
Debmarine Namibia is a subsidiary of diamond mining and jewellery company De Beers and is owned in equal shares with the Namibian government.
The Additional Mining Vessel (AMV#3), as it is technically known, will use sub-sea crawling extraction techniques to retrieve diamonds from the seabed off the coast of Namibia. These will then be processed on board. At 177 metres in length, it is now the largest diamond recovery vessel in the world and the new flagship of the Debmarine Namibia fleet. The vessel is expected to operate for at least 30 years.
The media statement continued that the build involved many challenges, ranging from the onset of Covid-19 early in the project to the management of many subcontractors, each contributing their specialist skills and products. Engineering challenges included the installation of a DP2 dynamic positioning system based on a seven-thruster propulsion system powered by six generators, to enable greater flexibility in the vessel’s operations. Project management was undertaken by De Beers Marine South Africa.
With the constraints of Covid-19, Damen also undertook the complete commissioning process, implementing incremental ways of working to ensure the massive project was all completed on time.
“Today marks a significant milestone in the Debmarine Namibia calendar and our country Namibia, as we witness the completion of the vessel, a significant phase that represents the largest ever single investment in the history of marine diamond recovery. We keenly await the arrival of this asset to join the rest of the fleet to recover marine diamonds safely and sustainably, whilst building a lasting positive legacy for Namibia,” said Willy Mertens, Chief Financial Officer of Debmarine Namibia, during the delivery ceremony.
The Additional Mining Vessel #3 (AMV3) will use state-of-the-art technology to optimise ocean floor diamond recovery. It is the seventh ship in Debmarine Namibia’s fleet and its recovery equipment was being built in parallel with the vessel construction.
The diamond recovery vessel is anticipated to provide approximately N$2 billion in taxes and royalties per annum in addition to more than 160 jobs.
Financing for the AMV3 was sourced through co-funding from five banks, namely Nedbank, RMB, Standard Bank, Bank Windhoek and ABSA, with Debmarine Namibia covering 25% of the total project cost. This translated into N$5.6 billion provided by the banks, representing 80% of the cost of the vessel and Debmarine Namibia financing the remaining N$1.4 billion.
Upon commencing commercial operations, the AMV3 is expected to increase production by about 500 000 carats that will boost Debmarine Namibia’s annual production by 35%.
“Some of the highest quality diamonds in the world are found in the sea off the Namibian coast. With this investment, we will be able to optimise new technology to find and recover diamonds more efficiently and meet consumer demands across the globe,” said De Beers Group CEO Bruce Cleaver in a recent interview.
The construction of the new vessel and steel cutting began in Romania in May 2019 with the massive investment seen as a sign of confidence in the glittering diamond industry.