St Helena Online

Tag: Rupert’s Bay

Ian responds to critics on Rupert’s port project

Traders in Jamestown have been strongly critical of the plan to land cargo at Rupert’s Bay – leaving them with a difficult journey to transport goods to the shops, on narrow roads that hug steep hillsides. Executive councillor IAN RUMMERY offers a personal response. 

The thing about Rupert’s is that with limited funding, albeit £15 million, we are limited to construction at Rupert’s.

While Jamestown is the main wharf at present it cannot continue to be all things to all people.  If it is a working port then it cannot be used for leisure purposes.

At present there are significant health and safety risks. There is no room for warehousing. What would happen if we enforced health and safety measures and then prevented yachties from coming ashore?  What happens if a yachtie/tourist/Saint gets run over while on the wharf as they are moving cargo?

Another potential issue is that without a wharf we would require ships with their own cranes.  We have yet to receive the tenders for a new freight service but my understanding is that options would be more limited if the ships had to have their own crane.

There is a plan to upgrade the road from Rupert’s (Field Road and Side Path Road) and this is in the capital programme.

Rupert’s is not ideal but it is a compromise. Also, the haul road potentially opens up development opportunities outside of Jamestown, so in this case Rupert’s is ideally situated as the port.

Monster wharf crane is shipped out in pieces
Rupert’s set to be new ‘port’ as wharf is approved

Rupert’s set to be new ‘port’ as wharf is approved

Rupert's Bay: set to become island's new port
Rupert’s Bay: set to become island’s new port

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.

Artist's impression
Artist’s impression

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.

Wharf plan, in pictures (September 2013)
Rupert’s Bay wharf – story archive

Wharf works will bring noise and dust, but benefits too

Building a new wharf in Rupert’s Bay will bring both benefits and burdens to St Helena.

They include a heavy increase in traffic in Rupert’s Valley, bringing noise and dust – listed as a “major adverse” impact. A speed limit of 10 mph has been proposed.

Airport construction firm Basil Read has asked to be allowed to work extended hours on the wharf, because of the need to complete it within a single season, before heavy seas arrive. Permission for longer working days would be considered case-by-case.

The effects of noise and vibration from blasting at the quarry up the valley would be eased by giving residents 24 hours’ warning, with inspections to guard against damage to homes.

The impact assessment for the project warns of possible major damage to the historic military defences across the bay – known as the Lines.

But measures to protect the Lines, and a bridge over the Rupert’s Run, have already proved successful during the construction of the temporary wharf built in 2012.

The new design is said to offer better protection to heritage features.

The report also warns of a low risk that workers could be killed or injured by a rockfall.

But it points out that most work will be carried out on the breakwater, away from the cliff face – making it safer than working on the wharf in Jamestown.

Loose rocks should be dislodged before construction starts.

The report also warns of commercial fishermen being unable to land catches at the Shears at times during the construction period. Jamestown could be used instead, with compensation paid for the cost of transport to the freezer facility.

But there are benefits too – including employment opportunities for Saints. Some might be trained in underwater construction techniques.

Highly skilled jobs operating cargo lighters will be lost – but the cost of cargo operations will go down dramatically. The new port would create some employment.

Larger fishing vessels would be able to land catches at Rupert’s Bay, and it could provide an alternative landing place for cruise ship passengers.

Freeing up space at Jamestown wharf could also mean better facilities for yachtsmen.

Saints will still be able to use the popular barbecue and swimming area at Rupert’s.

Water quality for swimmers might even be improved as a result of changes in the water current, meaning any pollution is washed out to sea.

Measures will also be taken to reduce litter gathering on the beach.

The new wharf might also be good for marine life, creating new habitat for tiny creatures such as sea slugs.

Read the full planning statement here

Sailors welcome: but don’t leave any nasty gifts

Visiting mariners have been described as a potential health risk to people on St Helena – because of what they might get up to on shore.

The danger of them passing on diseases through amorous encounters has been identified as one of the impacts of the newly-approved plan to build a port in Rupert’s Bay.

Proposed measures to deal with the threat to community health include making free condoms available in the island’s bars, as well as health screening.

A risk of increased teenage pregnancy could be tackled with more sex education – though that would not benefit girls who have already left school.

Other measures include providing accommodation for seamen, and “strict controls on the import of drugs”.

The report includes a wry comment on the threat to local morals and health:

“This is not new to St Helena,” it says, “as the island has a long history as a port of call.”

Siting of a dock in the bay…

Rupert's wharf impression 640Work could start in early 2014 on building of a new, permanent wharf in Rupert’s Bay, allowing ships to come alongside a dock to discharge cargo and passengers for the first time in St Helena’s history. Click here to see a gallery of plans and artists’ impressions.

Wharf plan prompts conservation worries

Concerns are being voiced privately by conservationists as work moves ahead on a proposed wharf in Rupert’s Bay.

There are fears that the project might harm undiscovered relics from St Helena’s maritime history, as well as natural life – including rare insects in a little-known cave.

Approval has been given for work on final designs for the wharf – with a decision to move it to a different part of the bay. Planning permission will be needed for the change.

The £15 million project will be financed through the European Development Fund and the Department for International Development (DfID).

Orders for heavy equipment will be placed over the next four months, though final clearance for the project has yet to be given.

At a press conference on the visit of advisers and project directors from the UK,  reporters were told that divers had made no new archaeological finds in the proposed wharf area.

That has drawn a sharp retort in an email from one expert island-watcher, who said: “Marine archaeology doesn’t sit on top of shifting sand, waiting to be discovered by casual drivers.”

Captured slave running ships are known to have been broken up in the bay.

And a sonar survey in neighbouring James Bay – for a jetty project that has since been put on hold – found anchors dating back to the 16th Century, suggesting similar finds could be made in Rupert’s Bay.

An anchor was pulled up there in 2012.

Historic finds would not be likely to prevent the proposed wharf being built, but there is expected to be pressure to ensure that a scientific survey is undertaken with any finds properly recorded.

Some island divers are thought to have been trained to carry out such work.

Environmental adviser Bryony Walmsley spent a week on St Helena alongside Nigel Kirby of DfID and Basil Read project director Jimmy Johnston.

She has been made aware of concerns over the existence of insects in a cave that might be affected by blasting for the new wharf. They have not been found in any other part of the island.

Conservation measures protect eco hotspots

The most recent airport project newsletter, dated 30 August 2013, highlights a number of measures to reduce impact on St Helena’s highly sensitive environment.

It says the amount of land taken up within the central basin of Prosperous Bay Plain has been reduced by 40 per cent during design work.

And the new haul road from the coast was moved to avoid important wirebird habitat near the Millennium Forest and Tungi Flats.

A number of conservation areas have been marked on the ground to prevent construction vehicles straying into them.

Work is also to take place in coming months to restore sites no longer needed for construction works.

“One of the first areas we will be looking at is immediately adjacent to one of only a few known habitat areas of the endemic mole spider,” says the newsletter.

“We aim to rehabilitate this area and will be working with specialists to develop a suitable approach.”

SEE ALSO: Docking procedures complete: wharf plan moves ahead

Rough seas force airport ship to sit at anchor

Words and pictures by Bruce Salt

St Helena’s airport supply ship, the NP Glory 4, has had to retreat from her mooring in Ruperts Bay after sea conditions deteriorated on Friday 1 March 2013.

Today (Monday), the ship remained at anchor as the rough sea continued.

NP Glory 4 at anchor
NP Glory 4 at anchor

Even though the 78-metre-long vessel was moored to the shore in Ruperts soon after daybreak on Friday, it was advised that the NP Glory 4 should retreat to seaward by 13:00hrs as it was feared the sea would get rougher than it already was.

With noon just past, the starboard bow mooring line “popped”, indicating that it was time to abort to an anchorage off Mundens Point and await calmer weather.

Containers and machinery remained aboard the roll-on, roll-off ship.

On all of the vessel’s previous visits the sea has been flat calm. This had to happen soon or later.

The RMS St Helena arrived around 09:40 on Monday 4 March and passenger disembarkation and cargo removal was soon under way.

The local coxswains are particularly skilled at operating in rough conditions.

After the nerves, praise all round for successful docking
Basil Read ship: the pictures that made Johnny homesick

GALLERY: The wreck of the Queequeg

Jetty delayed by four years to pay for Rupert’s Bay dock

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.

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

Jamestown wharf improvements: environmental impact assessment

A man in the bow of the ship gives directions as a vehicle rolls down the ramp

After the nerves, praise all round for successful docking

A man in the bow of the ship gives directions as a vehicle rolls down the ramp
Lines hold the NP Glory 4 in place as her ramp drops. Picture courtesy of St Helena Airport Project

Islanders involved in the first ever docking of a ship at St Helena have been praised for making it go smoothly.

A fault with a flow meter meant the discharge of fuel had to be halted overnight, meaning the NP Glory 4 was delayed in returning to Namibia to collect more materials for the island’s airport project.

One senior member of the Basil Read airport team had admitted that people were nervous about how the docking on Wednesday 11 July would go.

“Obviously there is a great deal to be considered and we would not be telling the truth if we were not nervous but we have anticipated as many risks and remedies as we possibly can.”

Some railings on the temporary jetty in Rupert’s Bay were damaged, but they are only needed for public protection when the jetty is not in use, so they will be replaced with a removable waterside barrier.

Head and shoulders shot of Deon de Jager
HAPPY: Deon de Jager

Dean de Jager, Basil Read’s island director, was interviewed by Saint FM the day after the docking.

He said: “Except for the fuel pumping, I would give it nine and a half out of ten. All operations went very slick. The first voyage is behind us and we can look forward to the coming voyages but I’m very happy with what happened.

“Everything is a learning process, but we are on schedule. We would have liked to send it back earlier, but… things happen.”

He praised the way people made the operation go as smoothly as possible. “Everyone on this side – St Helena Government, all their departments, immigration, customs, the access office, the police – I could not have asked for better flow on the day. They all did their bit and I need to thank them.

“To my team as well, the Basil Read guys, yesterday was once again proof I have chosen the right people. They are a practical bunch, they make a plan and they can work well together as a team.”

Basil Read ship: the pictures that made Johnny homesick
In pictures: airport ship is first to dock at St Helena
Basil Read ship arrives off Jamestown

St Helena Airport Project – picture gallery

Airport supply ship set to make island history

The Basil Read ship, being loaded at Walvis Bay

History is set to be made on St Helena this Wednesday, when the Basil Read supply ship is due to be become the first cargo vessel ever to dock at the island.

The finishing touches have been applied to a temporary jetty in Rupert’s Bay and three vast pneumatic fenders have been delivered to the island in readiness for the berthing of the NP Glory 4.

The ship is 78 metres long and has a draught of 3.5 metres when fully laden, and is technically classed as a landing craft. She will bring all the raw materials needed for construction of the island’s first airport.

Most of Rupert’s Valley will be closed to visitors but islanders will be able to board buses down to the waterside, allowing them to spend up to 20 minutes viewing operations.

Large fender covered in tyres, pictured on shore
Three pneumatic fenders will cushion the Basil Read ship against the new jetty

The ship departed Walvis Bay on 4 July, with 17 crew, plus Captain Bill Langworthy – a familiar name on St Helena from his time with Andrew Weir Shipping, the company that manages the RMS St Helena.

She is expected to reach St Helena on the afternoon of Tuesday, carrying various construction vehicles, including a bus, a 60-tonne mobile crane and a 70 tonne excavator.

She is then expected to be anchored in Ruperts Bay while the captain assesses local sea conditions, and then berth on Wednesday.

She will remain alongside during daylight hours but will return to her anchorage out in Ruperts Bay between approximately 6pm and 6am.

Yellow vehicle with catarpillar tracks
This 70-tonne excavator will trundle up the airport haul road

The vessel is expected to remain in Ruperts Bay for three days, and then commence a regular 22-day cycle of round trips between St Helena and Walvis Bay.

While she is in port, Lower Ruperts will be closed from the junction near St Michael’s Church.

Bus trips will run on Wednesday between 9am and 1pm from St Michael’s.

Mundens path will also be closed throughout this period

Ruperts residents, businesses and emergency vehicles will still be permitted access to Lower Ruperts at all times.

First of the excavation equipment moves to Prosperous Bay Plain – St Helena Community website
NP Glory 4 – Basil Read ship