#RMSstHelena – RMS St. Helena having been bid farewell by spectators in Tilbury, London on her final ever voyage from the UK, yesterday evening, is now almost out of the English Channel bound ultimately for St. Helena, some 4,500 miles away, writes Jehan Ashmore.
At time of writing this end of era St. Helena Line voyage (no. 243) is mid-channel south of Plymouth, with 116 passengers on board, mostly St. Helenian’s returning home. In addition to tourists also curious to experience this unique combined passenger-cargo service opportunity to the island deep in South Atlantic Ocean.
Among the travel categories is a two-berth C Deck cabin costing £885 while those going 'solo' will have to fork out £4,506 for same accommodation albeit in the above B deck.
At 6,797 gross tonnage, the 105m long vessel with 59 officers and crew has a capacity for 159 passengers in a variety of cabin berth configurations. There are two bars, a full waiter-service dining room, library, a gym, sun deck with customary outdoor swimming pool overlooking the stern.
Over the past quarter century, RMS St. Helena has been the principle method of transport for this 'life-line' only sea service connection of the British Overseas Territory with the outside world. As the volcanic outcrop is 1,200 miles from Cape Town, South Africa, (RMS normal 'mainland' port) the islanders depend for everything imaginable. This can range from humble baked beans, kitchen sinks, medical equipment, to cars and building materials,noting the island's first (yet to be opened) airport!
A representative of AW Ship Management that is responsible for RMS St. Helena, informed me that 'reefer' cargoes notably include precious! supplies of Cadbury and KitKat, as the ‘Saints’ as the islanders are called, have such a craving for these chocolates! On a more serious note, fire-fighting vehicles are also on board this current voyage.
On a different voyage, one of the most unusual ‘passengers’ has been crocodiles! from South Africa to Tenerife, the next port of call of this fortnight long voyage.
Asides calling to Tenerife of the Canary Islands this Sunday, there be will a call the following Sunday to Ascension, also a British Overseas Territory. It is only the latter port of call that is routinely part of the normal St. Helena Line service that connects to Cape Town as previously referred.
All that is to change notably with this new airport, on an island of almost 50 square miles and a population of around 4,500 inhabitants. The airport was meant to open in May, however due to operational reasons, permission to begin commercial flights connecting South Africa have yet to be given. This will see a brief reprieve of voyages.
In addition, a containership to be renamed M.V. St. Helena is to be introduced by AW Ship Management this summer, albeit with limited accommodation for only up to 10 passengers. This will see the RMS withdrawn and sale of the 1989 Scottish built ship, which returned to the that country as reported on Afloat, during a once off charter cruise that included calls to Irish ports.
As a result of these developments, St. Helena Line has extended the sailing schedule. This voyage (no. 243) was to have marked the final ever service ending in mid-July by culminating in Cape Town.
The delay to the airport will see St. Helenian’s and visitors alike having an additional three voyages to Ascension Island and Cape Town. The final ever scheduled voyage, no. 246 is due to take place in late September. Thus ending a unique ‘maritime’ chapter for St. Helenian’s but also for the world.