FEATURE | New high-tech role for iconic colonial ferry

Photo: The Liquid Highway
Photo: The Liquid Highway – St. Helena arrives in London

On July 11, 2018, Baird Maritime reported that the 6,800-tonne passenger and cargo ferry St. Helena, which for many years had supported the British Atlantic Ocean island colony of that name, had been sold to maritime security outfit MNG, for use as a floating armoury for anti-piracy guards on merchant ships operating in the Red Sea region.

The iconic vessel’s stint in the maritime security sector, though, was a brief one

In late 2018 St. Helena was sold on by MNG, with some early reports suggesting that the ship was to be converted into a luxury yacht. It now seems, however, that it is to assume a vital role in a new, ultra high-tech, venture.

On January 31, 2019 St. Helena was in London as the venue for an event to promote a new and innovative series of off-road races for electrically-driven, specially constructed, sports utility vehicles. The races, to be known as the Extreme E series, are scheduled to commence in 2021, and will take place at locations in the Himalaya, Sahara, Amazon, Arctic and Indian Ocean islands regions.

St Helena is to be converted into a “floating paddock” for the race series. The ship, which already features a large crane, and accommodation for some 250 people, appears to be well suited to the role. Refit and refurbishment work will entail conversion of some internal spaces into workshops and garages.

After the London event, the former ferry headed west to undergo the requisite conversion work. According to some recent reports from within the shipping industry, the work is to be carried out by A&P in Falmouth, Cornwall, and Manor Marine in Portland, Dorset.

Trevor Hollingsbee

Maritime security expert and columnist, Trevor Hollingsbee was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, Senior Superintendent with the Hong Kong Marine Police, Assistant Secretary for Security in the British Hong Kong Government Security Branch, and Intelligence Analyst in the UK Ministry of Defence. As an independent defence and security analyst he has had some 1,500 articles on maritime security, and geopolitical topics, published in a range of international journals and newspapers. He is an Associate Fellow of the Nautical Institute, and a past Vice-Chairman of the Institute’s Hong Kong branch.