FolkestoneJack's Tracks

RMS St Helena visits London on her farewell tour

Posted in England, London by folkestonejack on June 7, 2016

The RMS St Helena made her way up the Thames this afternoon for a triumphal pass through Tower Bridge at the end of a twenty six year career serving the British overseas territory of Saint Helena, shuttling passengers and goods between Cape Town, Saint Helena and the Ascension Island. Today, she is one of only two ocean-going vessels still carrying the title of Royal Mail Ship.

RMS Helena passes through Tower Bridge

RMS Helena passes through Tower Bridge

Originally, the British territories in the South Atlantic were served by commercial shipping but by the mid 1970s this had declined to such an extent that the British Government had to step in and purchase a ship to fulfill this role. The ship in front of us today is the second to bear the name, having been purpose built in 1989 in Aberdeen to replace her smaller predecessor.

The construction of a new airport on St Helena has brought about the end to the ship’s time plying the waters of the South Atlantic. She was originally scheduled to be taken out of service in July 2016, but her working life has been extended a little further as the first test flights into the new airport identified problems with wind shear which have yet to be overcome (in one test a Comair Boeing 737-800 in British Airways livery took three attempts to land). One article described it as the island airport where planes can’t land and the comments of pilots don’t sound encouraging. There have been suggestions that the £250m airport may never open.

The farewell tour saw RMS St Helena arrive in the UK on 5th June 2016 and she returns to the South Atlantic on 14th June 2016 (via Tenerife). RMS St Helena will be moored alongside HMS Belfast until the afternoon of Friday 10th June when she will head back down the Thames to Tilbury.

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