Today St Helena Government has announced that St Helena Line will withdraw the RMS St Helena from service in February 2018.
The RMS is now being offered for sale and London shipbroker CW Kellock & Co Ltd will handle the sale of the RMS to her new potential buyers.
The RMS St Helena has been in service for more than a quarter of a century and was built in 1990 in Aberdeen Scotland as a fit for purpose ship to serve St Helena Island in the South Atlantic.
The RMS as she is known as has a gross tonnage of 6,767 gross tonnes, and can accommodate 156 passengers in 56 cabins. The RMS St Helena was scheduled to be withdrawn from service in 2015 but due to the delay in the Islands airport opening and commencement of a commercial air service, she was forced to continue serving the island until an access solution was implemented. St Helena will now open its doors to commercial air travel on the 14 October 2017. The RMS St Helena will continue her final few voyages to the Island calling at St Helena, Ascension and a final voyage to Tristian da Cunha and it is hoped her the last voyage will end in Cape town on the 15 February 2018. Details of the sale of the RMS can be found on the RMS St Helena website. If you would like to travel on the RMS St Helena for the very last time more information can be found here
The official announcement was delivered today. “That SA Air link are the chosen bidders to provide commercial air services to St Helena”
The long awaited press release from the St Helena Government announcing the successful bidder was somewhat brief and sort of an anticlimax; As it was always apparent who was going to be the preferred bidder after Atlantic Airlines and Cello Aviation was told that they weren’t going to be invited to continue through to the second phase of the tender process. The confirmation came really when SA Air link were chartered to airlift home the stranded passengers from South Africa last month. For this the SA Air link used an identical aircraft the Avero RJ Aircraft that Atlantic Star Airlines used when they landed on St Helena last year.
However, generally the community are now asking when will flights commence but again Government is asking the public to be patient. For most of us patience is wearing thin and there is a feeling in the community that indicates most are seeking alternative means of access. For some they have already taken the decision to don’t travel to and from St Helena at all. Let’s hope that Atlantic Airlines and other providers are not perturbed by disappointment and will soldier on to continue to offer St Helena the alternative service especially for the UK and Ascension links.
The community is greatly aware that Atlantic Star who also submitted a comprehensive bid to offer air services that was designed to grow the travel needs of St Helena, included options to employ saints.
How long will it take the St Helena Government to negotiate the final part of the tender with SA air link. Your guess is as good as mine as the announcement didn’t explicitly say this but more on the lines like how long is a piece of string.
Details of the connecting hub and flight schedules and commencement date is also up in the air so it seems as this we are told also forms part on the ongoing contractual negotiations.
The preferred connecting hub for most saints are Cape Town International in South Africa, this will enable familiar onward travel for most. The original decision however to use Johannesburg as a hub could still be a possibility.
The concerns about Saints living on Ascension and the Falkland Islands remains a big unresolved issue. The possibility of air travel via Ascension to connect with St Helena air travel could be highly unlikely if Ascension Island wide-awake airfield remains closed to commercial aircraft due to ongoing safety concerns with the runway. Though it is generally known that Ascension will remain the alternative airport for St Helena in case of emergency.
So what do we know about SA Airlink.
SA Airlink is a South African domestic and regional carrier and it is privately owned and mainly based in Johannesburg.
Airlink was formed in 1978 and forms is part of a feeder for SA Airlines some of the aircraft owned by the company are Avero RJ85s, Embraers and BAE Jet streams.
Like most airlines airlink have suffered a few incidents and accidents over the years some of which occurred in September 2009, December 2009, defence web in South Africa reported that SA Air link had four incidents in three months.
SA Airlink is a member of IATA (International Air Transport Association)
SA Airlink have flown to St Helena only a few months ago to bring home stranded passengers when the RMS St Helena experienced mechanical issues.
Do you have any experience of SA Airlink?
What are your thoughts of St Helena’s new Air service?
Are you looking forward to flying to St Helena with SA Airlink?