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Island’s two wharf schemes both struggle for funds

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Artist’s impression of the permanent wharf planned for Rupert’s Bay. Source: St Helena airport project

Two separate plans for landing jetties on St Helena have both come up against funding shortfalls.

Money has been set aside for a permanent dock in Rupert’s Bay, big enough for cargo ships to come alongside.

But the latest air access newsletter confirms that the funding available is not enough to meet the expected cost.

In May 2012, St Helena Government said attempts were being made to bring down the cost of its own scheme for Jamestown because of a similar shortfall.

The ideal for officials would be to build both wharves, meaning cargo need no longer be brought ashore by lighter at Jamestown – a difficult operation during a sea swell.

If it only proves possible to build the Rupert’s wharf, passengers would be able to land there on days when the sea was too unsettled for them to go ashore at Jamestown.

For many people, stepping ashore at the landing steps, just as Napoleon did in 1815, is an essential part of the St Helena experience.

The landing area at Jamestown is understood to be the last intact East India Company wharf in the world.

Construction work will be much cheaper to build if it can be done by airport contractor Basil Read while it still has machinery and staff on the island. The airport project is due to be completed in early 2016.

The cost is high from the outset because the sea bed drops away rapidly – a consequence of St Helena’s origin as a volcano.

It is understood that talks are now taking place about how to “phase” improvements in landing facilities on the island.

Detailed discussions took place on the Rupert’s Bay scheme during the October 2012 visit to the island by Nigel Kirby of DFID and Basil Read’s airport project director, Jimmy Johnston.

The latest air access project newsletter reports says: “A provisional sum is available alongside the airport project for the purpose of constructing a permanent jetty in Rupert’s.

“The permanent jetty will need to enable a variety of vessels to come alongside. In the longer term this will allow cargo operations to be transferred from James Bay to Rupert’s Bay.

“Unfortunately, the projected cost of the permanent jetty came in above the amount currently available. Whilst Nigel and Jimmy were on-island, detailed discussions took place on this matter.

“Basil Read has been collecting additional wave data and has been investigating alternative quarry sources to provide details for the Basil Read designers in Jo’Burg. This will enable us to review the designs to see if there are ways in which costs could be reduced.”

Executive councillors were called to The Castle in April to be told the Jamestown project was in jeopardy because its funding would not cover the cost. A grant had been offered by the European Development Fund.

St Helena Government said it could not award a contract to its joint preferred bidders, Enco and Marine Lagan, because it could not meet the tender price.

It said it was considering a wide range of options and that Enco and Lagan were looking at ways to bring down the cost – but that this would all take “some time”.

The Jamestown scheme involves building a 140-metre breakwater, with a short jetty to make it easier for people to step on and off small boats, reducing the risk of cruise ship captains refusing to allow passengers ashore.

Jamestown jetty plan looks dead in the water
Funding shortfall delays safer landing stage
Bidders try to save jetty plan – after report it would be scrapped

LINKS Jamestown wharf improvements: environmental impact assessment

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About Simon Pipe

Former print and BBC journalist, running St Helena Online news website about British territories in the South Atlantic at and blogging occasionally on other sites.

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Q: Given the island will require a permanent jetty for the long term future, how come a temporary jetty was started.

AM: I’m going to comment and then invite Mr (Nigel) Kirby. I think I’m right in saying the decision is made not to build the jetty

NK: Te permanent wharf will take years to build. The temporary wharf will be incorporated into what we hope will be a permanent wharf. But that is a longer term project. If we were to wait for that it owuld put the airport project back two or three years. The intention is to provide a wharf in Ruperts where ships can come alongside to be unloaded by crane.

AM And that would contain the historic nature of the jetty in Jamestown.

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