Plans for the development of an airport on St Helena Island intended to boost visitor numbers and tourism infrastructure have become reality with the announcement that the design phase is to begin immediately.
South African construction company, Basil Read, confirmed it had been contracted to design, build and operate the airport last week. The project is being funded by the UK’s Department for International Development.
Construction is expected to take place on the East side of the island over a 24-month period. This will entail the development of facilities able to accommodate aircraft up to the size of an Airbus A320 and Boeing 737-800.
After construction, the operations phase of the airport contract will continue in partnership with Lanseria Airport for a further period of 10 years, at an estimated contract value of R450-million.
For decades the island’s only lifeline to the outside world has been the RMS St Helena, which carries a small number of tourists to the island each year.
A draft of the Department of International Development’s review of the St Helena and other shipping options for the island between 2012 and 2016, compiled last year, suggested that demand for travel to the destination was growing.
“Passenger demand has been increasing for a very long time,” the Executive Summary and Recommendations stated. “In 1995, shortly after the RMS St Helena entered service, there were 1582 arrivals at St Helena. By 2008 this had increased 64 percent to 2589. During the peak South African summer months and over Christmas, the RMS operates at or near passenger capacity.
"Over the full year, the RMS is operating at 72 percent of its annual passenger capacity. Sailings from Cape Town, the main gateway port, are 87 percent full over the year. The two UK legs have lowest passenger utilisation and are approximately 60 percent full,” it added.
In the interim, agents for the Royal Mail Ship St Helena in South Africa, Andrew Weir Shipping, can assist travellers with information on the island of St Helena, the cruise schedules, ship details and special offers, Cape Town Manager, Suzanne I’Ons confirmed.
“The ship is operating right up until January 2013. The normal booking procedures are in place and we will remain the passenger agents for the line locally,” said Suzanne I’Ons, Cape Town Manager for Andrew Weir Shipping.