RMS St. Helena's visit to Tristan - and some history and economics
- The official Tristan website reports:
Report on the 2013 RMS St Helena Cruise: Voyage 200 Itinerary
RMS St Helena Voyage 200 departs Cape Town on Thursday 14th November
and should arrive at Tristan da Cunha on Tuesday 19th for a two night stop-over
before departing on Thursday 21st to St Helena for a four night stop over,
arriving 25th and departing 29th for Cape Town
where the ship is due to return on 4th December.
The RMS St Helena made annual Tristan da Cunha voyages from 1985 until 2004.
The present RMS took over from the old ship in 1990.
Since then the RMS St Helena visited Tristan in February 2006
with Governor Mike Clancy aboard to celebrate the 500th Anniversary
of the island's discovery and in January 2011 when Governor Andrew Gurr visited Tristan.
The 2013 will enable Governor Mark Capes to make his first visit to Tristan da
Cunha. Mark took up post in October 2011.
The 2013 RMS St Helena Voyage will have a special focus of
celebrating 50th Anniversary of the successful final return
of Tristan Islanders aboard MV Bornholm in November 1963.
It is hoped* that the RMS will return to Tristan da Cunha soon. The loss of the annual
RMS trip was a big blow to Tristan da Cunha and passages to Tristan are almost always full. It is
very disappointing that the vessel will only stop two nights on Tristan, but is spending four nights
at St Helena where it is a frequent visitor. Perhaps the Governor will exercise his authority and
extend his Tristan stay on what may be his only visit?
..... ends .....
*This is the hope in Tristan, and perhaps in Government House in St. Helena,
but many others in St. Helena "hope" the RMS never goes to Tristan again.
They feel the RMS was built for Saints and is "theirs." They depend on her
for everything except tourists, petrol and diesel, while Tristan is visited
by several ships (although some carry only 12 passengers).
This attitude in St. Helena isn't simply selfishness. A bit of history. In
2002 Saints were offered a choice between continued massive subsidy of the
RMS or an airport. In a referendum that some feel was worded unfairly (and
is still being debated today) those who voted chose an airport, which is now
under construction, and scheduled for completion in 2016. Many Saints
expressed their displeasure by not voting. Paying for a £260 million airport
was favoured by DFID, the UK foreign aid agency, who want to get St. Helena
off the increasing annual dole, paid for by hard-pressed British taxpayers.
At the time in question, the RMS was said to have a useful economic life
ending in 2015. This persists, as though we'll wake up one morning to the
news that the RMS has suddenly crumbled into a pile of rust.
In recent years, a great deal of work has been done on the ship, including
very expensive re-engining. I believe if she continues to be well-maintained
and kept off the rocks, she will still be giving good service 25 years from
Two myths continue to be heard on the street in Jamestown. One is that the
ship will be decommissioned the day the airport opens in 2016, and the other
is the pile of rust story.
While the airport is intended to transform the economy of St. Helena, this
won't happen overnight, if it happens at all. DFID wants the Saints to take
over the subsidy immediately. That is economically impossible, but neither
DFID nor the Foreign Office want to discuss the problem openly, leaving Saints
afraid they may all starve to death for lack of container freight.
Alternatives for ocean freight are questionable. Feeding and supplying 4000
by air would be unaffordable.
So there has been a great deal of uncertainty among Saints. An attitude
among Foreign Office officials assigned to St. Helena that many felt was
secretive, arrogant and dictatorial resulted in a recent election in which
most of the "old guard" were rejected in favour of a new, younger group of
progressive people who understand that leadership is about inspiring people,
not controlling them.
As a specialist consultant in the Overseas Territories, I can say without
hesitation that these 12 people and their quiet revolution are the best
thing I've seen all year.
We don't all think alike. So that's why we have wars and stuff.
Robert S. Conrich, ACIArb
British West Indies Tel: 1 264 497 2505