Mishap at Sea Knocks NamDeb

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-Rough Waters Exact Costly Loss By Chrispin Inambao WINDHOEK NamDeb has lost diamond-dredging equipment worth a fortune following a mishap at sea on Wednesday night off the South African coast. Components of the state-of-the-art diamond-dredging equipment were being transshipped to Namibia from Malaysia for NamDeb’s offshore mining operations when they fell into the sea as rough seas pounded the giant vessel. The dredge, most of whose components were lost to angry swells, cost approximately N$28 million while the whole dredging system, that includes additional pumps, piping, a workboat and other segments, costs double this amount. Hilifa Mbako, the Group Manager: External & Corporate Affairs at NamDeb, the alluvial diamond giant, said the ship “lost most of her cargo overboard off the South African coast in the vicinity of Durban and Port Elizabeth”. Though no loss of lives was recorded, the ship’s shaken crew was eventually evacuated to Cape Town for treatment, mainly for shock, after activating a distress signal. Mbako said the loss of the components for the CSD500SD cutter section dredge, that when assembled weighs a colossal 235 tonnes, will run into millions of dollars. Diamond production at Pocket Beaches Areas 11 and 12 located on the west coast of Namibia, midway between LÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¼deritz and Oranjemund and consisting of twelve sites, will be set back by three months as a result of the mishap. This specific alluvial deposit is covered by extremely coarse sandy overburden to a depth of up to 20 metres, which makes conventional earthmoving strip-mining both uneconomical due to the volume of overburden and unpractical because of the high permeability of the sand. Dredging was determined to be the most economical method of moving large masses of wet material particularly with a diesel unit, thus the importation of the equipment. Voast LMG bv of Amsterdam, Holland, operating in Port Klang in Malaysia, built the dredge that would have been unveiled to a media contingent by Mbako tomorrow. NamDeb’s General Manager: Operations Chris Sivertsen, would also have been present at the event that has since been cancelled because of the volatile turn of events at sea. The diesel-powered dredge, 52 metres long and equipped with a rotating cutter head and having a swing anchor weight weighing a ton, has a maximum dredging depth of 15 metres and can dredge a minimum depth of 2 metres. He said the equipment would not be salvaged and has been lost forever because of the roughness of the sea in that area. Because it will take some time for NamDeb to place another order and to have the goods delivered, Mbako said the diamond firm would not reach set production targets and this will cost several millions in lost production. NamDeb can however draw some consolation from the fact that its insurers may have to pick up the bulk of the bill after the assessors quantify the losses and verify certain facts. In the first six months of this year that ended on June 30, NamDeb was able to increase its revenue by 25 percent to N$2.6 billion mainly due to the increase in the carats sold. During this period taxes accrued to the state amounted to N$400 million as in 2005, while total taxation represented 92 percent of pre-tax profits compared to 74 percent last year.