It won’t quite be a harbour, as such, but approval has been given to new plans for a wharf for Rupert’s Bay, big enough for cargo ships to come alongside for the first time in the island’s history.
The decision has been made by the Governor in Council after extensive public consultation, with only minor amendments to the plan.
It will include a jetty, a slipway, an access road and a facility for launching a sea rescue boat – in sheltered water.
Cranes for unloading cargo will be transferred from Jamestown, freeing up the wharf there for passenger handling and tourism development.
Construction was scheduled to start in early 2014 and be completed before the arrival of heavy seas at the end of the year.
The final decision came 17 months after the NP Glory 4 became the first ocean-going ship to dock on the island, using a temporary wharf built specially to land materials for the airport project.
The new jetty will be built out from the south west point of the bay. The design previously approved would have seen it project into the bay from the beach.
In late 2012 there were doubts over whether the scheme could be funded, despite money being allocated as part of the airport project – to take advantage of construction firm Basil Read’s presence on the island.
The project was saved when the island government gave up on plans for a new, sheltered landing stage for Jamestown.
An appraisal published in December 12 found the wharf would dramatically bring down the cost of landing goods and fuel on St Helena, and potentially increase income from cruise ship passengers.
The island would be able to charter cargo vessels that did not have their own cranes and did not need to unload goods onto lighters for transporting to the shore.
A review found a number of fleets operating off the south and west African coasts with charter ships that could be berthed at Rupert’s.
Turnaround time for ships would be much lower, with less risk of delays because of bad weather.
Fuel tankers will continue to discharge both diesel and aviation fuel via a floating pipeline, on no more than six days a year.
Even with a new airport due to open in early 2016, the appraisal said improved sea access was a priority, to support economic development.
An increase in cruise ship passengers would not bring enough money to justify the cost of a breakwater for Jamestown, it said.