Expo 46: Boat people— St Helena


The ship that leaves from South Africa for St Helena has a practical purpose – it’s the only means of reaching the isolated island. But the ‘RMS St Helena’ is also a place where time stands still – harking back to the height of the Commonwealth when tea and scones were served around the globe.

Andrew Weir, Cargo ship, RMS St Helena

It’s disco night aboard the RMS St Helena. Here on the 105m-long ship in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, somewhere between Namibia and Brazil, the sun lounge has been transformed into a dance floor. The barefooted wife of the King of Tonga’s chief justice boogies energetically with the South African geology professor while the Norwegian oil chemist drinks whisky at the bar until he is reeled into the conga line by the Australian insurance broker. The line snakes out of the door and past the saltwater pool where the Norwegian’s travel…

RMS St Helena

The boat is one of the last working Royal Mail ships (the Queen Mary 2 still has RMS in its title).

It has 128 berths for passengers and 56 crew.

There is space for 92 containers; the boat is 105m long.

RMS St Helena was built in 1989 specifically to supply St Helena, the British Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic.

The island is 1,900km off the west coast of Africa.

Britain’s Princess Anne travelled on the RMS to St Helena in 2002.

Both captains of the RMS are from St Helena (Captains Young and Greentree).

The ship’s cargo includes everything from wind turbines and car parts to sheep and paint.

The boat sails from Cape Town to St Helena and on to Ascension Island (and then back the same way) 16 times a year – thus calling at St Helena 32 times a year.

The RMS is scheduled to visit Portland, UK, this October for the last time.

The government of St Helena will make a decision on whether to build an airport in late 2011.

A return fare from Cape Town to St Helena costs £2,040 (€2,300), based on two sharing.


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