De Beers launches diamond exploration vessel off Namibia

Namibia and the De Beers company on Thursday inaugurated what the diamond producer calls the world's largest diamond exploration vessel.

The $157 million ship is designed to find diamonds more easily off the country's Atlantic Ocean coastline.

De Beers CEO Bruce Cleaver said about 75 percent of the 1.6 million carats produced in Namibian operations last year came from offshore deposits. The company calls itself the world's largest diamond producer by value.

The diamond industry is a pillar of the Namibian economy, and De Beers expects its offshore operations to spur production until at least 2050.

The new vessel allows a joint venture between Namibia and De Beers to explore diamond deposits with greater speed and accuracy up to 140 meters (460 feet) below the sea's surface.

Namibia gets more than 80 cents of every Namibian dollar of sales generated by its partnership with De Beers, according to the company.

The new SS Nujoma is named after Sam Nujoma, Namibia's first president after independence in 1990. He was among the dignitaries who gathered to view the 113-meter (370-foot) ship.