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End of an Era As Unique Passenger-Cargoship RMS St. Helena Prepares to Bid Farewell

13th January 2018
As Afloat has previously reported, the passenger-cargoship RMS St. Helena notably made a historic once-off visit to Dublin and Cork (Cobh) during a private cruise-charter in 1995. More than two decades the 6,767grt ship made a first in 2016, by visiting London (as above alongside HMS Belfast) while on a special farewell voyage prior to the withdrawal from the South Africa-St. Helena service (due to have closed that year) but instead is to take place within weeks. The reason for the delay to decommission the 'RMS' service arose due to initial safety concerns following completion of St. Helena's first commercial airport and in which have since been resolved. Flights connecting to the remote South Atlantic island began last October. As Afloat has previously reported, the passenger-cargoship RMS St. Helena notably made a historic once-off visit to Dublin and Cork (Cobh) during a private cruise-charter in 1995. More than two decades the 6,767grt ship made a first in 2016, by visiting London (as above alongside HMS Belfast) while on a special farewell voyage prior to the withdrawal from the South Africa-St. Helena service (due to have closed that year) but instead is to take place within weeks. The reason for the delay to decommission the 'RMS' service arose due to initial safety concerns following completion of St. Helena's first commercial airport and in which have since been resolved. Flights connecting to the remote South Atlantic island began last October. Photo: JEHAN ASHMORE

#Ports&Shipping - The unique Royal Mail Ship, RMS St Helena (see related ship for sale report), will depart on a final voyage from the remote South Atlantic island of St. Helena on Saturday, 10 February, having dutifully served for the past 27 years.

The island, a UK Overseas Territory located 1200 miles off the west coast of Africa could only be reached by the ocean-going passenger-cargsoship service, until commercial flights began operating last October, following completion of an airport. 

There are two other ships that still carry the legacy ‘Royal Mail’ designation, however the uniqueness of RMS St Helena, is because the 6,767 gross tonnage ship, is the only remaining Royal Mail Ship contracted by the UK's postal service to carry mail across the seas. 

Preparations to bid farewell to the RMS are underway and a working group comprising of representatives from St Helena Line, the RMS, SHG, St Helena Tourism, Solomon & Company (St Helena) Plc and Legislative Council has been established to take forward the celebrations and ensure the RMS gets the ‘send off’ she deserves.

A programme of events has been put together which starts when the RMS is in Cape Town, South Africa. The ship will host a cocktail party onboard for invited guests before sailing on her last voyage from Cape Town on Wednesday, 24 January. The RMS will sail from ‘F Berth’ where the Cape Town Caledonian Pipe Band, dignitaries and others will be able to wave goodbye to the vessel.

Director of St Helena Line, Mrs Kedell Worboys MBE, will also present Captain Adam Williams with a 27ft ‘paying off’ pennant, to mark the 27 years’ service of the RMS St Helena – the pennant will be flown from the RMS mast as she sets sail from Cape Town.

During the RMS’ visit to Ascension Island on Saturday, 3 February, the ship will host a cocktail/drinks party for invited guests.

The RMS arrives at St Helena on Tuesday, 6 February, when the on-Island activities for her farewell begin.

A service of thanksgiving will be held at St James’ Church for RMS crew – this will conclude with a procession to the Sea Front. Members of the public will be invited to attend.

A ‘memory wall’ will be placed in various locations throughout the week for members of the public to share their memories of the RMS.

The main celebrations will take place on Friday, 9 February, with an RMS Open Day and celebrations on the Sea Front. Prior bookings will be taken for the Open Day and further details will be released shortly. Celebrations will include an exciting performance by the RMS Amateur Dramatics Society and live music by various local bands.

Passengers travelling on the final voyage (no. 268) will be treated to celebrations onboard the ship and able to listen to a live broadcast of the festivities taking place ashore.

The public will have a chance to say goodbye to the RMS crew on Saturday, 10 February, when all crew members in their uniforms proceed from the Grand Parade in Jamestown, through the Arch, making their way along the Sea Front before returning to the ship.

The RMS will depart St Helena at 4pm on Saturday. The 27ft paying off pennant will be walked from the Sea Front to the bottom steps where Kedell will once again present the pennant to Captain Williams. Members of the public will be allowed access to the bottom steps to witness this and to say a final farewell.

It is planned for a flotilla of boats to circle the harbour and the RMS St Helena before she pulls up anchor. Captain Williams will then sail towards Buttermilk Point before turning around for a steam past the harbour, allowing all ashore to view the RMS for one last time decked out in full dress and to view the 27ft paying off pennant. The RMS will then stop at Lemon Valley where her flags will be taken down before continuing her onward journey to Cape Town.

Further details of the programme including times and details of various competitions will be published in the coming weeks. Members of the working group will also be on local radio informing the public of celebrations taking place.

It is hoped that the community will come together to give the RMS St Helena an unforgettable send off.

 

 

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