ABB to power world’s largest diamond recovery vessel

Damen Shipyards Group has selected ABB to deliver an advanced power system for the world’s first custom-built diamond recovery vessel. With a total cost of 468 million US dollar, the vessel for De Beers is the largest single investment ever made in the marine diamond industry.

The vessel is being built at Damen Shipyards Mangalia on the Black Sea in Romania. It deploys advanced subsea crawling – a technique for recovering diamonds from the seabed. The newbuild will be delivered to Debmarine Namibia, a joint venture between the Government of the Republic of Namibia and De Beers Group in 2022. De Beers Group is the world’s leading diamond company.

Offshore mining

Namibia has the richest known marine diamond deposits in the world, with Debmarine Namibia extracting some of the highest quality diamonds available anywhere from water of between 90-150 metres deep off the south west coast of the country. Traditionally, onshore along the coastline of Namibia, diamond mining is done in open-cast mines, however, with the land-based output in Namibia expected to run out in fifteen years, offshore mining is on the rise.

The new 177-meter ship has been designed by Norwegian naval architects Marin Teknikk. It will become the largest ship in the owner’s fleet, exceeding the size of Debmarine Namibia’s current largest vessel, the Mafuta, by 8000 tonnes displacement. It is expected to increase the shipowner’s annual production by 35 per cent, contributing additional 500,000 carats to today’s production levels.

The offshore mining specialist has previously installed ABB’s power systems on board the SS Nujoma (SSN), Debmarine Namibia’s deep-water diamond exploration and sampling vessel.

‘The success of the SSN, with high reliability, efficient positioning and low fuel consumption coupled with safe operation, was instrumental in selecting the same systems for the new diamond recovery vessel, with ABB’s power systems being and integral part of the solution,’ says Michael Curtis, who is heading the newbuild project for Debmarine Namibia.

Uninterruptible power supply

In addition to the advanced system for power generation, distribution and variable speed drive propulsion systems, the solution includes a large online double-conversion marine uninterruptible power supply (MUPS) to support the ship’s vital control processes, significantly reducing the risk of critical power loss and downtime. ABB’s MUPS is designed for undisrupted availability, ensuring power backup for the vessel’s onboard control systems of the subsea-crawler and processing plant that sorts through sediment lifted from the seabed to extract diamonds.

The company’s advanced and tightly integrated power system will help optimise engine loading, as well as reduce running hours and fuel costs, and decrease maintenance needs.

Author: Mariska Buitendijk

Mariska Buitendijk is one of SWZ|Maritime's journalists as well as the magazine's copy editor.