Examining a rock sample from the seafloor at Nautilus Minerals’ Solwara 1 project.
Examining a rock sample from the seafloor at Nautilus Minerals’ Solwara 1 project.

NAUTILUS Minerals has entered into an agreement for the charter of a vessel to be deployed at the Solwara 1 seafloor project. Marine Assets Corporation (MAC), a marine solutions company based in Dubai which specialises in delivery of new build support vessels for the offshore industry, will own the vessel and provide the marine management.

The vessel will be chartered to Nautilus for a minimum of five years at a daily rate of US$199,910 with options to either extend the charter or purchase the vessel at the end of the five year period.

The vessel will first serve as the operational base for the Solwara 1 Joint Venture to be formed by Nautilus and the State of Papua New Guinea’s nominee, Eda Kopa (Solwara) Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Petromin PNG Holdings, to support operations carried out by the JV to extract and transport high grade copper and gold material from the project site in the Bismarck Sea.

Under the terms of the arrangement, MAC will enter into a contract with Fujian Mawei Shipbuilding, based in Fujian Province, China, to design and construct the vessel in accordance with Nautilus’ specifications.

When completed, the vessel will measure 227 metres in length and 40 metres in width with accommodation for up to 180 people and generate approximately 31MW of power. All below deck mining equipment will be installed in the vessel during the build process to minimize the equipment integration to be completed following delivery of the vessel. The vessel is expected to be delivered by the end of 2017.

Nautilus’ CEO Mike Johnston says, “We are excited to achieve this significant milestone and secure a contract with such an experienced vessel provider as MAC. We appreciate the continued support received from Eda Kopa, our joint venture partner, in reaching this milestone and, together with them, look forward to working with MAC and the shipyard in seeing the delivery of our first vessel and making seafloor mining a reality.”

MAC has a proven track record in the turnkey delivery of new build vessels constructed to internationally recognized quality standards. In the last 10 years, MAC has overseen and participated in the delivery of more than 30 vessels from shipyards in China.

Meanwhile, Nautilus announced in late November that under the terms of its agreement with Eda Kopa, the sum of US$113 million, which was placed into escrow in May 2014, was to be released to Nautilus on completion of the agreement, which was scheduled to take place on December 11. The company said completion of the purchase of a 15% interest in the project by Eda Kopa would now proceed in accordance with the agreement.