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Tag: Cape Town

Flights: chief sec admits doubts over medical care and crime

St Helena’s chief secretary has admitted to concerns about notorious crime at the airport that is to be the island’s link with the rest of the world – and about the future of medical referrals to Cape Town.

But Roy Burke could offer little response to an accusation of a “shameful” betrayal of Saints working on Ascension and the Falkland Islands, who could be left with no ship and no flights back to St Helena.

Comair Ltd will not offer a link to Ascension when St Helena’s first airport opens in 2016, because it would take pilots over their permitted flying time.

The Honourable Lawson Henry voiced anger, during Legislative Council’s closing adjournment debate, that Saints on sister islands had been left out.

He said it was their votes that had swung the referendum in favour of building an airport.

He also told how he had had his luggage interfered with at the airport, which is notorious for crime.

Mr Burke, in his closing speech, said: “We are all aware of Johannesburg airport’s issues. We will take action to make sure the citizens of St Helena and the travelling public are aware of the issues that are faced there.”

The Honourable Dr Corinda Essex had also voiced anxiety about whether hospital patients would still be sent to Cape Town, where a strong support network had built up among Saints and supporters. Johannesburg had no such network, she said.

Mr Burke said: “I too share that concern, as does the director for health, and we are currently in progress to find a way in which we can resolve that situation.

“Can the link to Cape Town be maintained? That’s a very good question and  I don’t have a short answer to that at the moment.

“But I would say that as far as medical referral issues are concerned, it does not necessarily mean that because Comair are flying to Johannesburg, that Johannesburg would be our evacuation point for a medical emergency, which is a different issue.

“It’s possible someone who needed to be evacuated very urgently might have to go somewhere else, and that might not be Cape Town either. So there’s a lot of work going on there to do with medical evacuation, which has yet to be concluded.”

Mr Burke could give little reassurance over future transport for Saint workers travelling for work on Ascension and the Falkland Islands.

They are to lose their current link between St Helena and Ascension – and onward flights to the Falklands – when the RMS is withdrawn from service in mid 2016.

The chief secretary said: “There are ongoing discussions about Ascension, particularly the link with St Helena: whether that is to be by air or sea. [There is] a lot of discussion to be had.

“Keep in mind that St Helena Government, in seeking to secure an air service provider, and also a freight service, included Ascension in the tender documents, although there was no requirement for those companies to provide [for that] as part of the contact.

“But those discussions continue and will continue until a resolution is found.”

Councillors Henry and Essex were among several elected members to welcome the news that Comair was to operate Saturday flights between St Helena and Johannesburg in a British Airways plane.

MORE AIR LINK COVERAGE: 
Saturday flights in BA livery confirmed for St Helena
‘Shameful’: workers left adrift by lack of Ascension flights
Don’t cast aside ‘family’ of carers in Cape Town, officials urged
I had my bag pilfered at Johannesburg, says Lawson
Ronnie takes flight
Flights to Europe and Cape Town ‘still up in the air’
Blast masters: Alan and co fire the last explosion on aircraft site

Don’t cast aside ‘family’ of carers in Cape Town, officials urged

Officials have been urged to continue sending medical patients for treatment in Cape Town when the island’s ship is replaced with flights into Johannesburg.

Legislative councillors heard that the “family” of people who support Saint patients in South Africa must not be cast aside.

“The electorate is really concerned about the likelihood of medical referral services being transferred to Johannesburg,” said the Hon Lawson Henry.

“All St Helena’s links have been with Europe and with Cape Town.

“The St Helena ‘family’ reside in Cape Town and they are the after-carers for the people who have to go off-island for medical treatment.

“Many of the St Helenians and those closely linked to the island who live in Cape Town have invested in enlarging their homes to accommodate our medical referrals.

“Are we now to cast all this aside and move it all to Johannesburg, where we have no established links for that Saint community who have done so much over the years to look after our people?

“I urge officials… to retain our links for medial services in Cape Town.”

The Hon Dr Corinda Essex said: “We are aware that hospital refurbishments and patient rehabilitation should reduce the number of patients requiring diagnosis and treatment overseas.

“However, it is likely to be the most critical and complex cases that will still require evacuation, and these individuals may well not be in a condition to cope without a strong support network.

“Such a network is long established in Cape Town, but none exists in Johannesburg.

“I am aware that a St Helena representative will be based in Johannesburg, but the support services that will be required extend far behind the scope of a single individual.”

  • Mr Henry hinted at dissatisfaction that councillors had no say in choosing an airline for St Helena. He said: “I contend that the St Helena Government did not make the decision to have the hub for our air services to Johannesburg: officials did.”

MORE AIR LINK COVERAGE: 
Saturday flights in BA livery confirmed for St Helena
Flights: chief sec admits doubts over medical care and crime
Flights to Europe and Cape Town ‘still up in the air’

Sailing for St Helena with a floorboard for a rudder

The yacht Benguela is the same type as a former Governor's Cup Yacht Race winner
The yacht Benguela is the same type as a former Governor’s Cup Yacht Race winner. Picture: 2 Oceans Maritime Academy

When the rudder failed on the yacht Benguela, its crew tried lashing a floorboard to a pole to take its place.

It worked, well enough to steer the 42-foot sail training vessel to within reach of rescue boats from St Helena.

Now the principal of the 2 Oceans Maritime Academy in Cape Town has thanked “all of St Helena” for the kindness shown to the yacht’s seven crew.

Sean Cumming said the Fast 42 vessel had just made its fourth visit to the island in a year and a half, on a voyage to enable student yachtsmen to notch up sea miles.

Its sister yacht, Diel, also visited in March 2014 on a training voyage from Cape Town to Rio and back via Tristan da Cunha.

Sean said: “Benguela suffered rudder failure in the early hours of Monday 29 September, due east of St Helena, while on the return leg to Cape Town.

“The skipper and crew attempted to repair the steering and drifted to a position north-east of the island.

“Around 0730 Universal Time they were able to set up a jury rudder using the spinnaker pole and a floorboard lashed to it.

“This allowed the vessel to make its way slowly towards the island under power until they were due north.

“I then made contact with Sean Burns of the Governor’s office, who was extremely helpful. He then contacted the relevant emergency personnel, who sent vessels out to assist, eventually towing Benguela back Jamestown.”

Trevor “Otto” Thomas, skipper of the fishing vessel MFV Extractor, agreed to accompany the island’s rescue vessel on the operation because of the distance and heavy seas anticipated.

“I would like to commend all involved in the assistance of Benguela,” said Sean Cumming. “You can imagine how stressful this has been for 2 Oceans, the parents of the crew, and family.

“We were updated on the progress through the office of the Governor and are extremely grateful to all who assisted.

“St Helena is a wonderful island to visit and we are so grateful that the rescue crew are so professional and friendly. The hospitality extended to the crew has been amazing. We will continue to visit the island as part of our yachtmaster programme.

“Thank you, all of St Helena.”

SEE ALSO:
Island crews hailed for ten-hour rescue operation
2 Ocean Maritime Academy
2 Ocean’s Fast 42 yachts

Ocean slog ends with a man overboard

Malcolm Russell aboard Ambre, ready to cast off
Malcolm Russell aboard Ambre, ready to cast off

Yachtsman Malcolm Russell reached St Helena exhausted but unharmed after a gruelling 1,600-mile voyage – then fell overboard in James Bay.

He couldn’t climb up out of the water, and his brother Rusty no longer had the strength to haul him in.

Now Malcolm has told how the pair were taken in by “the angel of the island” when they finally got to dry land, because they were in such a bad way.

Malcolm fell when he tried to launch the dinghy
Malcolm fell when he tried to launch the dinghy

The two “trade wind gypsies” were recreating a voyage Malcolm and his wife undertook 40 years earlier.

They left South Africa on 1 May 2014 in the yacht Ambre and soon found themselves wallowing in dangerous and uncomfortable conditions off uninhabited Dassen Island.

Then Neil developed a throat problem, so they put into Saldhana Bay in South Africa, where they took on board “the worst tasting water”, before turning towards St Helena.

“We went straight into the heaviest seas we had seen so far,” says Malcolm. “They were all over the place. We got banged around and hammered.”

During the storm a pulley failed and jammed the steering, meaning a difficult repair job.

Rusty was below deck when Malcolm went overboard
Rusty was below deck when Malcolm went overboard

Then continuous cloud meant the solar-powered engine battery ran down, and the auto helm stopped working.

“Now we were stuck with our biggest fear, that we would have to helm 24/7,” says Malcolm, describing the voyage on the YouTube video website. “Rusty would helm for four hours I would helm for four hours, and we would switch and switch about.

“It meant our sleep pattern got down to two and a half hours. And rusty had to call me if there was anything that needed my attention – ships close by, or something going wrong with the sails.

“I felt it.

“We finally arrived at St Helena. We lost the steering altogether and the auto helm blew up. The last three days of helming was in no wind.

“We were absolutely shattered. I had lost a huge amount of weight; so had rusty. We battled our way in, picked up a mooring and I thought our troubles were over.”

The two yachtsmen were on continuous four-hour watches
The two yachtsmen were on continuous four-hour watches

But they were denied the sleep they craved when customs and immigration asked them to go ashore.

“So these two shattered tired old guys decided to get the dinghy over,” says Malcolm. “Neil was working below decks while I went to get the dinghy and I fell overboard.

“You can’t believe what a shock it was.

“I gave rusty a yell. There was no way he could get me out, no way I could pull myself up. I was absolutely exhausted. Finally I said ‘Get a piece of rope, put a knot in it, and at least I’ve got a foothold.’

“After a lot of sweating and trying we managed to get me aboard.”

They got ashore instead on the ferry service and cleared customs.

“That’s when we decided to go and see the angel of the island.”

Grateful: Malcolm relaxes at The Consulate
Grateful: Malcolm relaxes at The Consulate

When they turned up at the Consulate Hotel to find old friend Hazel Wilmot, she was appalled.

“She took one look at these two old wrecks and she said, ‘No way: you’re not going back to the boat, you are staying here at the hotel as our guests. So we have a huge debt to Hazel.

“We had a really rough ride. But we are here now and loving St Helena once again.”

Part of the purpose of their voyage is to observe the state of the oceans and compare it with what Malcolm saw on his first voyage, 40 years ago, in a yacht he built for himself “in the middle of Africa with no idea how to sail”. He chronicled the trip in a book he has never finished, because “the voyage isn’t over”.

He says they saw lots of bird life this time, but only one flying fish. “That’s very scary because flying fish are prolific around here. We saw one dolphin, only one. That’s very different from last time – we had lots of sea life all around us.”

Next stop for the two mariners: the West Indies, “hopefully in time to beat the hurricane season”.

With their luck…

Watch the videos
Start of the adventure
Cape Town to St Helena

Gallery – from YouTube
Click on any thumbnail to see images from the Trade Wind Gypsies videos

The RMS St Helena casts a light over the water

Click the pic to see the image full-size
Click the pic to see the image full-size

Photographer Christopher Godden has kindly given consent for this site to publish his fine picture of the RMS St Helena at Cape Town, taken from the MSC Sinfonia. Christopher is a member of The Ship Society of South Africa, whose club house in the city’s harbour area has a library of several hundred books and journals on shipping. Christopher says that a party of 30-or-so members of the society are planning a voyage to St Helena in March or April of 2015. Doubtless they’ll enjoy swapping tales with Bruce Salt, the island’s own shipping enthusiast and a much-valued contributor to this site.

SEE ALSO:
The Ship Society of South Africa
Follow Christopher Godden on Twitter

RMS sailing schedule runs beyond airport opening

The RMS St Helena gets under way, photographed from Munden's Road on St Helena
The RMS St Helena, departing the island in 2009

The new sailing schedule for the RMS St Helena includes two voyages beyond the planned opening of St Helena’s first airport.

And they may not be the ship’s last trips to the island, according to a statement issued after executive councillors approved the schedule.

The ship is also set to drop anchor in James Bay on the day before the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s arrival on the island on 15 October 1815.

A ten-day spell in dry dock has been booked for August 2015, and a Christmas voyage to Cape Town is scheduled for the end of the year.

The ship is set to leave Cape Town on its last scheduled voyage, number 241, on 25 March 2016, in the month after the projected opening of the airport.

It appears that there might be further voyages beyond that date, though – including to Tristan da Cunha. Previous trips to St Helena’s sister island have sold out very quickly.

A press release said: “A question had been raised about the possibility of a voyage to Tristan, but the expected demand on berths as a result of airport construction and economic development ruled this out.

“The schedule post airport opening has yet to be confirmed and possible voyages such as this will be considered nearer the time.”

Executive councillors approved the schedule after consultation with various groups on the island.

The last listed voyage, number 241, sees the ship depart Ascension on 3 April 2016, leaving James Bay four days later. It ends in Cape Town on 12 April.

The ship entered service in 1990 after being built by Hall, Russell & Company in Scotland.

Its capacity was extended in 2012 with the addition of 24 extra cabin berths, giving space for 152 passengers.

The ship broke down while heading south from the UK in 1999 and had to put into the French port of Brest for repairs, leaving passengers stranded – including one family who had been heading to the island for a wedding.

The incident intensified the battle to secure an airport for the island, which was left without deliveries of supplies.

  • Executive councillors also approved a “small” rise in passenger and freight tariffs, in line with inflation and a commitment to reduce subsidies.

SEE ALSO:
RMS St Helena lands patient at Walvis Bay and sails on
Last Biscay boogie as ship leaves UK

Governor’s Cape seduction: tax breaks to lure investors

The lure of ten-year tax breaks is set to make St Helena a hot topic with investors in Cape Town, says a South African financial website.

The MoneyWeb report – ahead of a visit by Governor Mark Capes – says the opening of St Helena’s airport in 2016 “will open the island up for business.”

And it lists an array of incentives to pull in investors.

They include “early tax breaks, zero customs duty, corporate tax and capital gains tax for seven years on investments over £1million and below £5million.”

For even bigger investments, it goes on, the tax sweeteners would continue for ten years.

“Investments of more than £1million will attract a 50% discount on freight rates, and those bigger than £5million also qualify for a 50% discount on passenger rates,” says MoneyWeb.

It adds that St Helena has no off-putting sales or property taxes.

An event for would-be investors has been organised by Wesgro, the marketing agency for the Western Cape, to coincide with the governor’s stop-over en route to Tristan da Cunha.

The island party includes Julian Morris, who is leaving his job as the island’s head of economic development.

“The St Helena government is planning £24 million of infrastructure upgrades in the next few years in anticipation of air access,” says MoneyWeb.

“Opportunities are mainly focussed on tourism, fishing and services.

“Extensive research has shown opportunities in especially heritage and culture tours. The island’s link to Napoleon is a huge point of interest. Bird watching, gaming, fishing and diving, and to a lesser extent astronomy are other niche tourism markets targeted.

“On the fishing side, St. Helena has a 200-mile exclusive zone where it controls marine resources and tuna stocks are largely untouched.

“Fresh and frozen tuna provide opportunities as well as sports fishing, says Morris.”

The report does not mention efforts to bring a vessel to the island to enable local fishermen to exploit rich fishing around the island’s sea mounts.

But it does say that the island team will be “in serious talks with prospective hotel investors and parties interested in establishing a fish processing plant”.

The island team, including Enterprise St Helena director Rob Midwinter and councillor Lawson Henry, departed from Jamestown yesterday (7 November 2013).

Lawson will travel on to London with Dax Richards, the island’s Assistant Financial Secretary, to attend the annual Joint Ministerial Conference for overseas territories.

Read the MoneyWeb report:
www.moneyweb.co.za/moneyweb-2013-budget/airport-opens-up-opportunities-on-st-helena

Cape fights to keep £20 million trade with St Helena

The RMS St Helena is said to bring £20 million worth of business into Cape Town every year – and the city is fighting to keep it, according to MoneyWeb, a South African financial website.

It says the figure comes from the island’s departing economy chief, Julian Morris.

It says the ship has “significant economic value” to the city.

“That includes island supplies, mostly purchased in Cape Town. Islanders also come for advanced medical treatment.

“The total value of the St. Helena to the Cape Town economy might be much more.”

But the site hints that much of that income could be lost when the ship is decommissioned in 2016, with aircraft taking over its passenger service.

The site says the Western Cape’s marketing agency is fighting to keep “all or a large portion” of St Helena’s business.

That has included introducing investors to Governor Mark Capes and his team during their November 2013 visit.

The site sounds an optimistic note:

“The supply chain and services to the fledgling economy need to be established and opportunities abound,” it says.

In pictures: RMS St Helena in dry dock

Click on the thumbnails to see full-size images of work on the RMS St Helena during its 2012 dry dock refit in Cape Town.

Life’s a blast for RMS St Helena refit team

The framework of the ship's hull is laid bare as hold floor panels are removed
No, that’s not the new cabins: work goes on in the hold of the RMS St Helena

Heavy weather that has delayed the Basil Read airport supply ship on its return to Walvis Bay has also held up the RMS St Helena’s refit in Cape Town. CAPTAIN ANDREW GREENTREE reports.

How time flies when you are enjoying yourself. It has been a busy week.

We have had rain most of the time with strong south easterly winds. There have been short periods of bright sunshine, but these have been few and far between. On Sunday there were reports of snow across higher grounds.

Work has been progressing steadily. All spaces for the cabin upgrade have been stripped out. They are in the process of being rebuilt and are starting to look a bit like cabin spaces once again.

In the crew mess and rec the carpets have been renewed, all the furniture has been re-covered and the new portholes fitted. Work hasn’t started on the upgrade of the kids’ playroom yet.

The Gym arrived today (Tuesday 17 July 2012) and will be fitted on the funnel deck during the next week.

On deck, the blasting has been slower than normal, due to the rain. Areas being blasted are as follows: all of the underwater hull, poop deck, port and starboard fresh water tanks, and one ballast tank.

Both main cranes have been overhauled with new brakes fitted.  Work on both hatches with steel renewal continues. Both anchors and cable have been lowered to the dock and are in the process of being washed and marked, while the chain locker is being washed out.

A new “black box” has been installed on the bridge and preparations are being made for the new electronic chart display information system to be fitted in the next few days.

The two starboard lifeboats have been removed; all grab lines are being renewed, while on board we are renewing the wires on which the boats are lowered.

In the engine room the starboard gearbox has been completely stripped now and preparations are being made for the rebuild. Both tail shafts have been removed and are in the workshop being serviced. All propellor blades will be renewed.

The rudder pintles are ready to be checked but this can only be done once the blasting is complete and the area is free from dust.

The up-and-coming week will be a push for the finish line, as we hope to have a lot of the jobs completed ready for a mini sea trial towards the middle of next week.

SEE ALSO:
Back-pedalling in mid-Atlantic: the new way to reach St Helena?
In pictures: RMS St Helena in dry dock

LINK:
RMS St Helena

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