Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Creations from Region Prove to Be a Cut above; ENGINEERING

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Creations from Region Prove to Be a Cut above; ENGINEERING

Article excerpt

Byline: TOM KEIGHLEY tom.keighley@ncjmedia.co.uk

ATRIO of Tyneside-built undersea mining vehicles have been unveiled after a fiveyear, multi-million pound development project that has shown off the best of North East engineering.

Wallsend engineers SMD and representatives from Canada's Nautilus Minerals were on hand yesterday to give a live demonstration of the three Nautilus vehicles, each weighing around 250 tonnes.

Delivery of the vehicles is the culmination of a $100m phase in Nautilus' project to mine high grade iron ore nodules and gold from the sea floor.

The three pieces of kit - a bulk cutter, an auxiliary cutter and a collection machine - are now due to be taken to an unnamed location for testing in shallow waters before they loaded onto a specially built vessel and deployed in the Pacific Ocean.

All three will operate at depths of around 1,500m in temperatures of 2.6 degrees celsius, controlled remotely by teams on board the vessel using sonar and mapping technologies. Ultimately a crew of around 130 will help to deploy and operate the machines from Nautilus' vessel.

At SMD's Wallsend yard, international media were treated to a live demonstration of the machines, which feature components made by the likes of Caterpillar and North East neighbours Pearson Engineering.

Workers explained that Nautilus machines are designed to break rock with much greater forces than their land-based counterparts and can only be operated on land at low temperatures for fear of overheating. Nautilus Mineral's chief executive Mike Johnston flew to Tyneside for the unveiling. He said: "We're opening up a huge potential for seabed minerals which requires the sort of expertise that SMD has.

"Before we started this project we ran a design challenge and SMD were always in the top two companies, and they won it comprehensively. Everybody in the oil and gas space knows about their prowess.

"On the vessel side of the operation we've got some of the world's best companies involved, including the likes of Siemens and Rolls Royce, so it only natural that we ended up with SMD. …

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