Damen Starts Construction on World’s Largest Diamond Mining Ship

debeers diamond mining ship mafuta
MV Mafuta. File Photo: Haus/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Dutch shipbuilding group Damen Shipyards has started construction on a new offshore diamond mining vessel for a unit of De Beers in Namibia.

De Beers Marine Namibia (aka Debmarine Namibia), 50/50 joint venture between the Namibian Government and De Beers Group, awarded Damen with the contract to build the new vessel in February 2019 for offshore operations in Namibia. The steel cutting ceremony marking the official start of construction took place over the weekend at Damen’s shipyard in Mangalia, Romania. 

At 177 meters (577 feet) long, the newbuild will be the largest diamond mining ship in the world, taking the crown from Debmarine’s 174-meter Mafuta. Constructed from a Marin Teknikk design, the MT 6027 will also be the most technologically advanced marine diamond recovery vessel in the world. On-board features include a dynamic positioning system (DP2) based on a seven-thruster propulsion system powered by six generators of 3230 eKW each. 

The vessel is expected to cost around $468 million, representing the largest ever single investment in the marine diamond industry. 

Construction of the vessel is expected to take about two years. Damen Shipyards Mangalia will deliver the vessel platform in Mangalia and the vessel will sail on its own keel to Cape Town, South Africa. After the integration of the mission equipment in Cape Town, the vessel is expected to deliver first diamond production in Q2 2022.

Once completed, the vessel is expected to add 500,000 carats annually to Debmarine Namibia’s production for an increase of about 35% compared to today’s levels.

Debmarine Namibia operates the largest offshore mining fleet in the world, working at a water depth of between 90 and 150 metres off the south west coast of Namibia. The company owns five mining vessels and a dedicated sampling vessel, and additionally charters one sampling/mining vessel.

The newbuild marks the first project between Damen and De Beers. Michael Curtis, head of the Addition Mining Vessel 3 Project for De Beers Marine, sees the new vessel order as a harbinger for potential future collaboration.

“We were already well aware of Damen’s reputation as a reliable, efficient shipbuilder,” said Curtis. “We are pleased to contract Damen to build this vessel for us after successfully winning a Global Tender for the construction of the vessel. De Beers Marine (South Africa) will construct the mission equipment, comprising a subsea crawler and diamond recovery plant, in South Africa in parallel to the vessel construction. Once the vessel is delivered by Damen, it will be sailed to South Africa where the mission equipment will be integrated into the vessel by De Beers Marine. Given the parallel path and complexity of the project, it is critical to work with the best shipbuilders who have a reputation for performance and on-time delivery.”