#shipping - Former Royal Mail Ship (RMS) St Helena returned to London almost three years after a farewell 'once off' visit took place just days before the UK Referendum to remain or leave the EU was held, writes Jehan Ashmore.
Afloat had tracked the 6,767 gross tonnes ship which no longer has the RMS prefix, but simply renamed St. Helena to the Pool of London where the 1990 built vessel on Wednesday moored alongside HMS Belfast, the preserved WW2 Battlecruiser (see 2016 coverage)
The former 'RMS' passenger and cargoship almost a year ago completed its final lifeline sailing between South Africa and the South Atlantic Ocean island of St.Helena where commercial air services replaced the ship. Up until then the ship served as the sole transport link with the rest of the world transporting essential supplies and bringing islanders and passengers alike to the remote British Overseas Territory.
As previously covered in October, the St. Helena returned to UK waters, Portland in Dorset, and following the sale of St Helena Line to MHG which chartered the vessel for antipiracy work in early 2018. The ship understood to be renamed MNG Tahiti, however this short-lived career ended when the vessel was purchased by new owners from MHG in August 2018.
Afloat has confirmed with the ship's manager, Wilson Yacht Management that St. Helena is to be refitted and continue to trade as a passenger ship. This is contrary to recent media reports, that the ship is to be converted into a superyacht. The refit work is to take 18 months and take place in Portland and Falmouth in Cornwall.
The call to the UK capital of St Helena was to launch on board the promotion of Extreme E electric car racing which is to begin in January 2021. This timeframe would suggest the refit programme be completed in time given reports by Eurosport, that St Helena will transport all the championship’s supplies and equipment and will be refitted to act as Extreme E' (XE’s) floating paddock and operations base.
When in the role of RMS St. Helena, the ship operated between Cape Town, South Africa and the island, a distance of 1,950km and taking a five-day voyage. Originally, the ship was based out of the UK, operating voyages firstly from Cardiff, Wales and then transferred to Portland. This involved calls via Tenerife, Canary Islands.
In more recent years, the shorter voyage from South Africa took over, though ultimately all this was to change as scheduled flights took over following construction of the island's first airport.
As aviation put an end to the unique combined sea service of Royal Mail Service status (that included Ascension) this led to last year's introduction of a containership. This service is based out of Cape Town and is operated by the M.V. Helena.