De Beers, a unit of mining major Anglo American has launched world’s biggest diamond exploration vessel off the coast of Namibia.

The vessel, SS Nujoma has been developed at a cost of $157m by Debmarine Namibia, a 50/50 joint venture between the government of Namibia and De Beers.

SS Nujoma is equipped with sonar technology and a drilling device which will help it in scanning ocean floors, collect samples.

De Beers Group CEO Bruce Cleaver said: “Offshore diamond mining is becoming increasingly important in meeting global demand for diamonds as many of the major onshore deposits have now been discovered.

“The mv SS Nujoma will allow even more of Namibia’s high quality offshore diamonds to be discovered and mined, ensuring a strong future for Namibia’s diamond industry, as well as the global diamond market.”

The company which mines diamonds offshore was founded in 2002, and is an equally owned joint venture between the Namibian government and De Beers Group.

SS Nujoma is the first vessel in the company’s fleet of five vessels to be used primarily for exploration and sampling.

With more than double the speed of its predecessor, the vessel has been integrated with a variety of unique technologies to facilitate faster sampling, take lager samples and obtain more details per sample compared to other diamond sampling vessels.

Constructed in Ulsteinvik, Norway, mv SS Nujoma is a 12,000t  diesel-electric powered vessel. It has been fitted with a subsea sampling system that has been designed by De Beers Group.

Debmarine Namibia CEO Otto Shikongo said: “The important collaboration between all parties involved, and the exceptional efforts of those who worked on the vessel’s construction, fitting and sea trials, has seen this impressive vessel delivered three months ahead of schedule and on budget.”

A crew of 80 can be accommodated on the 113m long vessel which also has a helicopter deck that can facilitate Sikorsky S61s.

The mining vessel will carry out exploration operations at 120-140m below sea level for three years following which it would return to port for maintenance.

Last year, Debmarine Namibia’s diamond production was about 1.2 million carats.

Image: Debmarine Namibia’s Diamond mining vessel mv SS Nujoma. Photo: courtesy of De Beers UK Limited.