One of the few remaining vessels carrying the proud RMS prefix, she has served the islands of Ascension, Saint Helena and Tristan da Cunha well since her entry into service in 1990. A new airport is being built on Saint Helena at Prosperous Bay Plain on the east side of the island and when completed in 2016 it is expected that the RMS St Helena will be retired.
The Governor of Saint Helena, HE Mark Capes, travelled on this voyage, his first visit to Tristan. He is the monarch’s representative for Saint Helena, Ascension and the group of islands of Tristan da Cunha. His visit was timely, as November 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of the islanders return to Tristan, which they had been forced to evacuate following the eruption of a volcano on the 10th October 1961. It was also an opportunity for the Governor, on behalf of the Queen, to present an Honorary MBE to Captain Clarence October, Master of the MFV Edinburgh which is a real lifeline for the island. The award was to honour Captain October’s major role in helping rescue the crew of the bulk carrier Oliva wrecked on the uninhabited Nightingale Island off Tristan da Cunha on 16th March 2011 (see Sea Breezes April 2013). This was a hugely popular award as Captain October is universally respected and admired by the people of Tristan.
News of the RMS St Helena reminded me that this fine ship was built in the city where I sat all my foreign going certificates – Aberdeen. The contract to build the combiliner (passenger & freight) on behalf of the Saint Helena Government was awarded to Hall Russel Shipbuilders by the Overseas Development Administration in 1987. She was to serve the islands of Ascension, Saint Helena and Tristan da Cunha. Launched on the 31st October 1989, the naming ceremony was carried out by HRH the Duke of York, probably the first male to formally name a ship in the history of the yard. Sadly, as with most British shipbuilding stories there is no happy ending. Hall Russell Shipbuilders, latterly A & P Appledore (Aberdeen) Limited closed its doors early in 1992, the last major shipbuilder in a city once renowned for the fine ships it produced.