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Engineering feat of the month: The MV SS Nujoma

06/09/2017
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With diamonds contributing $235 million in revenue to the Namibian Government in 2013 and the fact the country currently produces 2 per cent of the world’s gem-quality diamonds, it is perhaps no surprise that new ways of sourcing and mining the precious commodity are looked for. Part of this search has included the major development of a new vessel titled MV SS Nujoma; an engineering feat aimed at expanding and simplifying the process.
The MV SS Nujoma has been built in order to reach diamonds at ever greater depths
(Image via Debmarine Namibia).

Background

Debmarine Namibia, formed by the Namibian Government in association with De Beers Group, hold a status as the only current company worldwide who are looking to mine diamonds offshore. Starting in 2002, by 2016 they are said to have produced around 1.2 million carats via methods which see them accessing diamonds at 120 to 140 metres below sea level. With increased productivity and ever greater depths in mind, the group looked at new methods and technology, resulting in the construction of a new $157 million ship titled MV SS Nujoma, focussed solely on exploration and sampling, and named after the Founding President of the Republic of Namibia. Seventy five per cent of funds required for the construction came from two banking institutions based in the country, Standard Bank Namibia and RMB Namibia, part of the First National Bank of Namibia.  Minister Kandjoze has described the ship as “an important milestone for offshore diamond mining in Namibia…the largest ever capital investment in underwater diamond mining.”



Construction

Built in Ulsteinvik, Norway by the Kleven Verft shipbuilding group, the vessel weighs in at 12,000 tonnes, is 113 metres long, 22 metres wide, and is manned by 80 crew members. A subsea sampling system was designed by part owners De Beers Group and fitted in Cape Town before the ship took up activities in June 2017 in Namibia following five months of trials.
The MV SS Nujoma is the world's largest diamond sampling vessel at over 113m in length and 12,000 tonnes 
(Image via Debmarine Namibia).

Features

Taking obvious visual prominence at the front of the diesel-electric powered ship is a large helicopter deck designed specifically for Sikorsky S61s to make use of. A huge sampling system weighing 2,200 tonnes is contained within the vessel; a project so big that it was built in large modules and later combined. The modules were lifted on to the ship via the use of the biggest crane in southern Africa.  Thanks to this system, which utilizes a number of technologies that make larger and quicker samples, the sampling speed of the MV SS Nujoma is more than double that of any ship that has gone before it. Top of the range sonar and drilling technology is also incorporated into this process.
The ship contains an enormous sampling system weighing 2,200 tonnes meaning it can make larger and quicker samples
(Image via Debmarine Namibia).

The Future

Diamond mining exploration will be undertaken by the MV SS Nujoma for the next three years before it will need to return to the Port of LÈ•deritz for maintenance and possible repair. With part owner De Beers currently holding a licence to operate diamond mining in Namibia until at least 2035, and diamonds making the single biggest contribution to the economy of the country, it is highly likely the MV SS Nujoma will still be in operation for many years to come.

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