A ship to make me and my country proud
As a young Namibian living in Windhoek, my passion always differed to that of my friends.
I travelled for the first time to the coast in my last year of high school (matric) and, while my friends were content to splash about in the water and spend time on the beach, I became curious about a career at sea.
As I researched my options, I became aware that there was an opportunity for me to pair my love of the ocean with a career and I became fascinated with the art of navigation.
However, not once did I think that this would mean I would step foot on a ship – especially one that is now so important to the economic future of my country.
I have worked at Debmarine Namibia – the offshore diamond exploration and mining company – for 14 years in a number of roles. Each of them has given me the opportunity to keep my love for the sea alive.
Last month, I joined colleagues, friends and dignitaries at the inauguration of the mv SS Nujoma – Debmarine Namibia’s, and the world’s, most advanced diamond sampling and exploration vessel.
And I am the vessel’s captain.
As soon as we are away from Walvis Bay, halfway up the Namibian coast, I will be reminded of the huge privilege it is to be at the helm of this innovative and dynamic vessel – named after His Excellency Dr Sam Shafiishuna Nujoma, the Founding President and Father of the Namibian Nation.
It is also a huge responsibility.
The mv SS Nujoma cost N$2.3 billion (US$157 million) to build and has a crew of around 80 highly trained individuals. The commissioning has actually led to the creation of 140 new jobs – the vast majority of which are held by my fellow Namibians.
I believe the mv SS Nujoma represents a major milestone for offshore diamond mining in Namibia.
Some of the world’s most beautiful diamonds are found here, where they have become the single biggest contributor to the country’s economy.
The partnership between the Government of the Republic of Namibia and De Beers Group alone generates more than N$10 billion in revenue each year.
I have followed the vessel’s progress closely ever since construction began two years ago in Norway, with the knowledge that one day it would be under my command.
There were celebrations when it was launched in January 2016 and, that July, as it undertook its maiden voyage to Cape Town in South Africa, where it was fitted with the subsea sampling system and a network of cutting-edge technology.
The hi-tech sampling system means the diamonds we find are sampled faster than its predecessor.
At 113 metres in length, it is longer than a football pitch, is 22 metres wide, weighs in at 12,000 tonnes and is powered by five diesel-electric engines.
It also has a helicopter pad that will be used to take those of us working on board to and from shore during three-year stints out at sea in between visits home.
Our exploring takes place up to 150 metres below sea level, seeking the diamonds carried across southern Africa by the Orange River over millions of years that were then left to rest on the ocean floor.
The mv SS Nujoma has also been designed and built to the latest international marine standards – Eco Notation – giving us the opportunity to implement a range of ‘greener’ technologies.
What might be surprising for a coastal country is that Namibia is in a water-scarce region, so we know we have to keep freshwater supplies from shore to a minimum.
As a result, the vessel has desalination systems fitted to ensure it is self-sufficient in producing freshwater.
The accommodation for the crew was a priority area for the vessel designers and – as we live on board for 28 days at a time - they factored in a high level of comfort, with low noise and vibration, and excellent ventilation.
As Master of the mv SS Nujoma, I cannot imagine doing anything else for a living.
On the mast, we fly the Namibian flag. The mv SS Nujoma is, of course, a source of pride for Namibia as well as for Debmarine Namibia – something that was clearly evident during the inauguration.
Our Prime Minister Dr Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, and Dr Sam Nujoma himself were at the event, as well as the Honourable Obeth Kandjoze, our Minister of Mines and Energy, and many other dignitaries and fellow employees.
To join them on that auspicious day filled me with an immense sense of pride – both as a Debmarine Namibia employee and as a Namibian citizen – and it was unlike anything I had felt before.
If the development of the mv SS Nujoma and the role it will play is any indication, my country has an exciting future.
And that is something the younger me would never have believed he would have the honour of being a part of.
Captain Thomas Kosmas
Master of the mv SS Nujoma