There is a large question mark hanging over the future of the RMS St Helena. The 128-berth passenger ship and cargo vessel currently serves as the lifeline to St Helena as the sole source of supply of all goods to her island population.
Currently the number of tourists that annually visit the island on the vessel is less than 1,500 a year, but life is about to change dramatically with the opening of an airport in 2016. It is estimated that air arrivals could quadruple the number of visitors within the decade that follows the opening of the airport. This development, it is strongly felt, will not undermine the essential way of life and natural attractions of St Helena.
While admittedly not everything can arrive by air, the operators of the RMS St Helena have nevertheless just announced that the vessel will make her final sailings in July 2016 just after the opening of the airport. In recent times, the schedules for the visits to Ascension, St Helena and then Capetown, that used to commence in the UK, have been altered and the vessel is now based in Capetown from where round trips to the islands commence. One presumes that operating costs were the main reason for the revised sailing schedules. While I have yet to read of the future plans of the St Helena, I do believe bright minds could come up with a plan.
The cruise industry at large is always attentive in relation to new cruising regions and opportunities. Although the distances are fairly substantial, the South Atlantic islands of Ascension, St Helena, Tristan da Cunha and possibly the Falklands would stimulate a legion of savvy regular cruisers who are regularly on the lookout for new destinations to add to their list of ports they have managed to visit during their lifetime. Not only would S Africa be a source market, but Air/Sea packages with an added land element could also appeal to other existing source markets. So hopefully all is not lost and the RMS St Helena has a life after the opening of the airport.