Jamestown’s planned breakwater and landing stage have been put on hold for at least four years – but it means a permanent cargo dock can be built in Rupert’s Bay.
Executive councillors made the decision after being told they risked losing funding from Britain and Europe for the Rupert’s project and seafront improvements in Jamestown.
Funds for the Jamestown jetty will now be added to funding for the Rupert’s Bay wharf.
Money may become available to revive the Jamestown scheme in 2016.
Councillors had been called to The Castle in April to be told that funding would not cover the cost quoted to improve landing facilities at Jamestown. The preferred bidder was trying to find ways to bring down the tender price.
Six months later it emerged that funding for the Rupert’s Bay scheme was also too low. It had been included in the Department for International Development grant for the island’s airport, but before the likely cost was known.
St Helena Online and the St Helena Independent reported in April that DFID appeared to favour dropping the Jamestown scheme in favour of a permanent wharf at Rupert’s, large enough for ships to come alongside.
The International Development Secretary at the time, Andrew Mitchell, raised the possibility at a meeting with Saints and island-watchers in Swindon.
Over the next six months, St Helena Government made no public reference to the possibility, despite the media reports. It said it was continuing to work on the Jamestown project.
The first public acknowledgement came when Governor Mark Capes announced that executive councillors had agreed to put the Jamestown scheme on hold, at their meeting on 13 November 2012.
He said: “We were joined by several officials to help us consider a paper on the proposals to undertake the construction of a wharf in Jamestown and a permanent jetty in Rupert’s Bay. Due to funding constraints both could not be undertaken at the same time.
“We were told that failure to take a decision now could result in SHG losing the funding for seafront development, allocated under the European Development Fund (EDF)programme, and also funding earmarked by DfID under the airport project.
“By transferring cargo operations to Rupert’s Bay, much-needed space at Jamestown wharf would be freed up. More-efficient loading and unloading of cargo will be possible when ships are able to dock at Rupert’s Bay.
“With that in mind we agreed that priority should be given to using the funds to construct a permanent jetty at Rupert’s Bay in the expectation that more EDF funds may become available in 2016/17 to go ahead with a wharf at Jamestown.”
One incentive for the Jamestown scheme was to avoid the island losing thousands of pounds through cruise passengers being prevented from landing.
However, it has been argued that stepping ashore at the landing steps on the East India Company wharf in Jamestown was an intrinsic part of the St Helena experience.
It would be possible to land cruise passengers at Rupert’s Bay if conditions were unfavourable in Jamestown.
Detailed discussions took place on the Rupert’s Bay scheme during the October 2012 visit to the island by Nigel Kirby of DFID.
The scheme relied on the work being done while the airport construction crews and machinery were still on the island. After that, it might become unaffordable.
The airport supply ship, the NP Glory 4, became the first large vessel ever to dock at St Helena on 11 July 2012, using a temporary wharf built specially to serve the ship. However, the wharf is not large enough for cargo vessels to come alongside.