The word “lifeline” is one too often bandied about and devalued; but, in the case of the Royal Mail Ship St Helena, it is entirely appropriate. In fact, she is its very definition.
For 27 years now, since her shiny new hull first slipped through the murky waters of Cardiff Bay in 1990, the RMS – or “Betty Blue Bucket”, as she is affectionately called – has plied the mid-Atlantic, nurturing Britain’s remote overseas territories and linking them to civilisation. Central to these rocky outcrops is the island of St Helena: sea lashed, cliff bound, the one-time darling of the Honourable East India Company, and haven to over 4,000 “Saints”, as locals are known.
The RMS is the last of her species, the only working royal mail ship left of a fleet that used to string together the distant strands of empire. Two other ships carry the title, but it is only honorary.
The RMS was purpose-built by the UK government, a 105m vessel able to carry 7,000 tonnes of cargo and passengers, all cocooned in a dark blue hull with white topsides, and crowned by a mustard yellow funnel bearing a golden merlion.
Now, however, the fatal day has come. St Helena, formerly the second most remote island in the world, has built an airport, a masterpiece of engineering bedevilled and delayed by topography, and after a two-year reprieve (see Afloat's coverage of once-off London visit) the RMS has completed her final voyage.
For much more on this historic final voyage and photos taken on the momentous day on and offshore of St. Helena Island, click here.
As Afloat reported last October, the passenger-cargoship owners St. Helena Line had appointed the sale of the ship through a London based ship-broker.
Sea transport services will continue albeit with a cargo-only service on the same route operated by A.W. Ship Management. This new service is scheduled to begin tomorrow voyage (No. 1) using the M.V. Helena.