HRH Princess Anne attended a reception on Wednesday evening onboard the RMS St Helena, moored next to HMS Belfast in The Pool of London. RMS St Helena is one of the world's last working Royal Mail ships and is visiting London as part of her farewell tour.
For the last 26 years RMS St Helena has been the only means of access to the remote island of St Helena, an Overseas Territory of the UK located 1,200 miles off the West Coast of Africa in the South Atlantic. But the passenger and cargo ship, which was built in Aberdeen in 1989 specifically to supply the island, is due to be decommissioned later this year when St Helena's first airport officially opens.
The reception on RMS St Helena convened an attendance of an estimated 100 guests, including members of St Helena Legislative Council, Pamela Ward Pearce and Dr Corinda Essex; Falkland Islands government representative in London and ex UKOTA Chair, Sukey Cameron; St Helenian students, representatives of the Armed Forces.
In her speech HRH commented on her family’s previous visits to St Helena and recalled her own visit to the Island on the RMS in 2002. She highlighted the crucial role the RMS has played in the lives of the people in St Helena and ended by wishing everyone a successful voyage back to St Helena.
The 105-metre long vessel is being sold by St Helena Line Ltd, who operate the ship on behalf of the St Helena Government, and it is hoped that a buyer will be found so she can continue to operate elsewhere in the world.
Matt Young, St Helena Line Ltd chairman, said: The RMS St Helena has played a vital role in sustaining St Helena’s population and, for the past 26 years has been the sole means of regular access to the island.
Her combined passenger accommodation and cargo design makes her well suited to a range of different trading options and we are confident that she can continue to play an important operational role elsewhere in the world.
St Helena Government UK Representative, Kedell Worboys MBE, commented: “What makes the RMS special? For the past 26 years she has provided the lifeline to the people of St Helena and Ascension – carrying food, medical supplies, building materials, and of course the mail. She is one of only four remaining Royal Mail Ships and the last working one. She is quite simply an extension to St Helena, part of our family.”
Guests enjoyed the reception on the Sun Deck with spectacular vistas of London, including the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. The opportunity was taken by many to acknowledge the dedication of the officers and crew.
Captain Andrew Greentree added it was a great honor and privilege to welcome HRH The Princess Royal onboard the RMS St Helena and ”to be the Captain whose crew prepared the ship well for this historic and memorable event. The officers and crew greatly appreciate HRH visiting the ship and taking a photograph with them”.
RMS St Helena arrived at Tilbury Docks in the UK on Sunday 5 June 2016, with 123 passengers on board. She will depart the Pool of London at approximately 17.30hrs on Friday 10 June and return to the London Cruise Terminal at Tilbury. Some 600 members of the public will visit for a pre-booked tour of the ship on Saturday 11 June.
After loading cargo and passengers, the RMS will depart from Tilbury at 16.00hrs on Tuesday 14 June, en route to Tenerife, Ascension and St Helena.