Friday, March 29, 2013

RMS St Helena - by Zeke

St Helena, an isolated spot in the mid Atlantic is only accessible by ship.  So it is that once a month the RMS St Helena delivers goods to the island from South Africa.  The goods can be any number of things such as cars and washing machines to fruit, vegetables and people.  The RMS stands for Royal Mail ship, so of course the ship also ferries mail.  

As there is no deep water harbour in St Helena the mail ship must anchor off-shore.  When passengers arrive a small ferry brings the passengers ashore.  To land the boat comes along side a concrete dock.  Ropes hanging from a metal bar assist you in climbing on to the dock as the ferry rises and falls on the swell.  As soon as the RMS St Helena has anchored two small lighters start work on transferring the containers ashore.

Firstly the lighter is tied up alongside the mail ship, then a crane onboard the ship lifts a container and drops it on the deck of the lighter.  The lighter then begins to motor towards the shore.  When the lighter nears the shore the deck hands secure it with a network of ropes just off the stone quay where the crane is located.  The reason for the ropes is that the swell would smash the lighter against the quay or nearby rocks if it were not secured.  Once the lighter is secured the crane swings its boom out and the deck hands secure the harness upon the container.  This operation feels very risky because the lighter is constantly heaving on the ocean swell.  The container is then swung ashore where it is loaded on a truck and taken to Customs.  The lighter then returns to the RMS St Helena where the process starts again.

The RMS Saint Helena anchored off-shore.

The ferry which services the mail ship taking passengers to and fro. Note the white water in this picture as the swell pounds the rocks just to the left of this picture. We’ve seen over one meter of swell running at this landing spot

The landing spot with the ropes hanging off a metal bar.

In this picture you can see the cranes on the key, a lighter held off the quay by a net work of ropes and in the bottom right hand corner the landing area.

The deck hands tying up the lighter to await unloading.

Securing the harness upon the container.

Lifting the container off the lighter and onto the quay.

Front to back cargo nets, lighter and mail ship.
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