JOHANNESBURG, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Anglo American's diamond unit De Beers has ordered a new $142 million diamond mining ship as part of its strategy to grow its offshore operations, the firm said on Tuesday.
De Beers said it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Norwegian firm Kleven Verft AS to build what it said would be the world's largest custom-built diamond mining vessel.
The new ship will work alongside the fleet De Beers uses to recover diamonds off Namibia's Atlantic coast as part of a 50:50 joint venture with the namibian government.
Diamonds, particularly marine diamonds which are generally more valuable than land-based stones because lower quality gems are washed away by waves, are an important commodity in Namibia and make up around 20 percent of its foreign export earnings.
"There is a great amount of potential in Namibias marine diamond deposits and this new vessel will support our strategy to continue to grow our offshore operations," said De Beers Group Chief Executive Officer Bruce Cleaver.
In June, De Beers launched the world's largest diamond exploration vessel, the SS Nujoma, in a move to maintain high production levels until 2035.
This latest vessel, which is expected to be operational by 2021, will be the longest in the fleet, measuring 176 metres long. (Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by Adrian Croft)