MARINE: Diamond Armada At Anchor
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THE Port of Saldanha these days is a sight to behold for, gathered here until mid February, is arguably the world’s largest offshore diamond mining and exploration fleet, lying at anchor.
All of the vessels belong to the De Beers group of companies and include the Grand Banks, Debmar Atlantic, Debmar Pacific, Gariep and Ya Toivo (all De Beers Marine Namibia vessels) as well as the De Beers Consolidated Mines vessel, the Peace in Africa, which operates off South African shores. The Peace in Africa is expected to put to sea mid February. De Beers Marine’s two sampling vessels, the Douglas Bay and the Coral Sea, will also be on anchor in the bay for a period that is still to be determined.
De Beers Marine in Cape Town provides operational and technical support to all these vessels and general manager Burger Greeff tells CBN the purpose of the anchorage is to provide a production break and at the same time to undertake the required maintenance on the vessels.
At the end of this month the production and then maintenance break would have lasted 60 days.
The vessels are positioned on a four anchor spread, with full legal manning. The exclusion zone around the vessels is 150 metres.
Greeff says De Beers Marine Namibia and De Beers Marine are committed to ensuring full compliance with legal requirements. The anchoring of the vessels are managed within the scopes of OHSAS 18001 and ISO 14001 certified Safety and Environmental Management Systems of the respective companies.
The vessels will be serviced by a launch operated by Smit Amandla Marine. All access to and from the vessels will take place from a central security point within the harbour.
The break is in line with diamond giant De Beers Consolidated Mines’ statement that it had been evaluating the new business environment in which its mines are operating, since the end of 2008, and had taken into account the world’s economic situation and its effect on the general economy.
Greeff says where maintenance was usually undertaken at sea, a window has now opened where maintenance requirements of the vessels can now be attended to “in one go”.
Importantly, wherever possible, maintenance on the ships will be undertaken by their own crews. Some of the Wartsilla and Caterpillar engines will be overhauled by the suppliers. The most recently launched vessel, the Peace in Africa, which mines off the Namaqualand coast, will receive attention to hydraulic and structural problems on the crawler. The work will be undertaken in-house where possible, according to Greeff.
In line with DBCM policy all vacant positions have been reduced and voluntary retrenchments and early retirement packages are being offered. Some 59 positions in the Cape Town operation and 225 on the Namibian operation will have been affected, Greeff says.
Meanwhile all capital expenditure on the vessels has been postponed beyond 2009, compared to the more than R250 million that was spent in 2008.
It is expected that the Peace in Africa, once full activities are resumed towards March, will work at a production rate of around 200 000 carats annually (it has a production capacity of close to 240 000 carats a year).
The Namibian effort too will be lowered to produce significantly less than the one million carats it produced in 2007.The company is optimistic on the long term strength of diamonds that retain their position as the most preferred gift in the key US market. A diamond not mined today remains a resource for the future when demand increases, in a world where major new mines are becoming increasingly scarce to find.
Greeff says the emphasis has now moved from maximum production to focus on improved productivity - that is, improved profitability per carat produced.
Emphasis will also be placed on more resource development in the different licensing areas for better use in the future once the market has turned more favourable, Greeff says.
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