Royal Mail Ship St Helena marked the end of an era on 17 October when she departed Portland for the last time. The 6,767-tonne cargo and passenger vessel spent the last week in the island’s commercial port ahead of her final scheduled voyage from the UK. A small flock of sheep were unusual passengers on the voyage, which will be used to start a special breeding programme to help the islanders obtain a new sustainable meat supply.St Helena, one of only two Royal Mail Ships left, was a lifeline for her island namesake in the South Atlantic. She was the sole source of supply for St Helena, which is 1,500 miles north-west of Cape Town and only accessible by sea. Dignitaries, press and port representatives gathered to mark the event on the ship, which has made regular trips to the UK since 1977.The 128-berth ship, which celebrated her 21st anniversary in November, will no longer sail from the UK but will only operate from Cape Town in the future, cutting direct links to the island from the UK. But the trips, which link Ascension Island and St Helena, will be more regular in order to improve access to the islands. The economy of St Helena is dependent on tourists, and it is hoped an airport will be built there in the next five years.


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