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Ship subsidy set to shrink as UK questions value for money

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A subsidy of just under £5 million for the RMS St Helena is to be put forward for UK approval as the ship nears the end of its service to the island.

The “slight” cut reflects concern that the ageing vessel has swallowed up too much aid money in recent years.

Funding is also proposed to bring the ship’s alarm system and lifeboats up to standard, though officials want to review the value of doing such work as it nears the end of its island service.

Freight charges and passenger fares on the RMS St Helena are set to rise from April 2013.

The subsidy for the ship is set to end in the financial year 2015/16, with the ship due to be retired a few months before the island’s airport opens in early 2016.

The report on the annual Development Assistance Planning Mission (DAPM) says:

“Recognising that the RMS is the island’s lifeline, DAPM will seek approval for a subsidy of £4.972 million to cover more than three quarters of the RMS’s overall predicted operational costs.

“Although this is slightly less than the previous year’s subsidy, DAPM is concerned at the very high ratio of subsidy compared to years past.”

The report says the aid mission will also meet a request for up to £588,000, to include work on the alarm system and lifeboats.

The visiting advisers discussed the marketing of voyages on the ship, noting it had become more vigorous.

Tourist passengers numbers had falled by 26% in 2012, though overall arrivals were up by 3%, thanks to increased business visitors.

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