Saint Helena loses its maritime link with the world

One of the most remote islands in the world – where Napolean was exiled two centuries ago – is losing its only regular maritime link with the outside world, prompting brokers to put a famous ship up for sale.

St Helena Line has announced it is to withdraw the passenger cargo Royal Mail Ship (RMS) St Helena from service in February next year and has appointed London shipbroker CW Kellock & Co to handle the ship’s sale.

Operated by St Helena Line on behalf of the St Helena government, the RMS has been part of the island’s history for over quarter of a century and provided the sole regular means of access to the island, a UK overseas territory located 1,200 miles off the west coast of Africa in the South Atlantic.

The ship was built in the UK in 1990 specifically for the St Helena route. At 6,767 gt, it can accommodate 156 passengers in 56 cabins, together with a cargo capacity of 3,750 cu m bale, and 92 teu.

The RMS St Helena is one of only four ships left in the world which has the right to carry the Royal Mail Ship (RMS) prefix.

The RMS currently operates out of Cape Town calling at both St Helena and Ascension Islands on a regular schedule.

With the start of scheduled passenger flights to St Helena in eight days’ time providing the main passenger access to the island, the RMS St Helena will be withdrawn from service.

The RMS St Helena is now embarked on its final programmed voyages and in the coming weeks will make a farewell call to Tristan da Cunha and then a final voyage to both St Helena and Ascension Island. It is expected to finish its last voyage in Cape Town on February 15 next year.

St Helena Line’s chairman, Matt Young, said yesterday that he hoped the vessel could find new trading routes elsewhere around the globe.

“Her combined passenger accommodation and cargo design makes her well suited to a number of different trading options and we are confident that she can continue to play an important role elsewhere in the world,” Young said.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. I remain intrigued with anything associated with St Helena’s. Thanks for the updates!

  2. Having twice sailed into St Helena and once to Ascension, although not on the RMS St Helena, I read this announcement with sadness. But having also lived a good chunk of my life in the British Virgin Islands which has just been devastated by hurricanes, I wonder if the RMS St Helena may be an ideal ship for a charity to purchase and refit with the purpose of going in after such natural disasters. A floating hospital carrying relief supplies (shelter, food, water, etc), evacuating people to safer locations, floating government offices should the normal ones have been destroyed, emergency communications centre to replace destroyed infrastructure until normal comms are back up. Etc. Etc. The NGO I formed for BVI relief will never have the means, but if this idea resonates, as an ex Merchant Navy man and one who’s been involved in disaster recovery, I’d be keen to see the old girl put to such good use.

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