RMS St Helena (1989)

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RMS St Helena in James Bay, Island of St. Helena
RMS St Helena in James Bay, Island of St. Helena
Name: RMS St Helena
Owner: St Helena Line Ltd
Operator: Andrew Weir Shipping Ltd
Port of registry: London,  United Kingdom
Builder: A P Appledore (Aberdeen) Ltd
In service: 1990
Identification: IMO number: 8716306
Call sign: MMHE5
MMSI number: 232669000
Status: In service
General characteristics
Tonnage: 6,767 GT
Length: 105 m (344 ft)[1]
Beam: 19.2 m (63 ft)
Draft: 6 m (20 ft)
Installed power: 6,532 kW
Speed: 14.5 knots (26.9 km/h; 16.7 mph)
Capacity: 128 passengers, 1,800 tonnes cargo
Crew: 56 officers and crew
Notes: Operated on behalf of Royal Mail Group Ltd (UK)

RMS St Helena is a combiliner (carrying cargo and passengers) that serves the British overseas territory of Saint Helena. She sails between Cape Town and Saint Helena with regular shuttles continuing to Ascension Island. Some voyages also serve Walvis Bay en route to/from, or occasionally instead of, Cape Town. She visited Portland, Dorset twice a year with normal calls in the Spanish ports of Vigo (Northbound) and Tenerife (Southbound) until 14 October 2011, when she set sail on her final voyage from the English port.[2] She is one of only four ships in the world still carrying the status of Royal Mail Ship.


Formerly, Saint Helena island was occasionally served by ships of the Union-Castle Line, which ran between the UK and South Africa. By the 1970s the number of ships taking this route had declined significantly and Union-Castle withdrew from the route completely at the end of 1977. As Saint Helena lacked an airfield, the British government had to purchase a ship to service the remote island and its dependencies from Cape Town.

The British government purchased the part passenger, part cargo ship Northland Prince to fulfil the role of servicing Saint Helena, and after being refitted and renamed this became the first RMS St Helena. Originally built in 1963, this converted 3,150 ton ship had room to carry 76 passengers and supplies. The ship was used by the Royal Navy during the Falklands War as a minesweeper support ship. By the 1980s it was becoming apparent that the ship was too small for the island's needs, resulting in the new St Helena, built in 1989.[3]


The new RMS St Helena was built by Hall, Russell & Company in Aberdeen, and entered service in 1990. St. Helena is a British registered Class 1 passenger/cargo ship, and operates with 56 officers and crew.

St Helena is equipped to carry a wide range of cargo, including liquids, to meet the needs of the population of Saint Helena. She also has berths for 128 passengers and associated facilities including a swimming pool, shop, and lounges.[4] She also has well-equipped medical facilities and an on-board doctor.

The ship's capacity was extended in 2012 by the addition of 24 extra cabin berths and a new gym.


In November 1999 St Helena broke down en route to the island and was forced into the French port of Brest to undergo repairs. Many people were left stranded on the island with no way in or out whilst the ship was being repaired. Panic ensued as islanders became concerned about the non-delivery of vital supplies.[5] This incident intensified calls for the island to be provided with an airport.

On 25 August 2000, St Helena suffered a minor engine room fire while sailing from Cardiff to Tenerife on the first leg of her journey to the island. No one was injured and there was no significant damage.[6]


In 2005 the British government announced plans to construct an airport on St Helena, which was initially expected to be operational by 2010. This project was 'paused', however, and in October 2011 approval of the project was announced with work commencing in 2012. The estimated cost on the project is £240 million and the airport is due to open in the first quarter of 2016. RMS St Helena is expected to continue operating until July of that year.[7]


  1. ^ "RMS Specifications". Web.archive.org. 2009-12-27. Archived from the original on 27 December 2009. Retrieved 2015-09-11. 
  2. ^ "RMS St Helena sets sail for final time | News". Wanderlust. 2011-10-14. Retrieved 2015-09-11. 
  3. ^ http://sainthelenaisland.info/rms.htm
  4. ^ http://www.rms-st-helena.com/lifeonboard.html Archived 16 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Africa | Give us an airport, say islanders". BBC News. 1999-11-10. Retrieved 2015-09-11. 
  6. ^ "Fire in engine room of passenger vessel RMS St Helena Marine Accident Investigation Branch report - GOV.UK". Maib.gov.uk. 2000-08-25. Retrieved 2015-09-11. 
  7. ^ "RMS St Helena to make last voyage - Travel News | IOL Travel". Iol.co.za. 2015-05-09. Retrieved 2015-09-11. 

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