- The south Atlantic island of St Helena, off Namibia, is one of the most isolated inhabited islands in the world. It will have its first international airport by 2010, the British government has indicated. Traffic to the island now mostly goes via Namibia.
St Helena island has become a popular holiday destination for Namibians since the Royal Mail Ship (RMS) St Helena started calling at the Walvis Bay and Lüderitz harbours of Namibia on its regular round trip to and from the island. The visits by the ship have resulted in spin-off benefits for businesses at the two towns.
The island is one of 13 remaining UK Overseas Territories. At present it is only accessible by several days’ sea voyage from the two ports in Namibia, from Cape Town or from Ascension Island.
The airport is expected to provide a boost for the island's economy, said Adam Kossowski, St Helena Island Commercial Representative: Southern Africa in a press release.
The British Department for International Development (DFID) will provide funding for the project. "The decision by DFID, in consultation with the St Helena government, follows evaluation of options to maintain access after the island's passenger and supply ship reaches the end of her working life in 2010," said Mr Kossowski.
The island's Governor, Michael Clancy, was equally optimistic about the development. "I have no doubt that this will prove to be a momentous decision in the history of St Helena. We are sure we can develop the proposal into a huge success that will lead to economic growth and considerable advantages for the island," he said.
The airport will be located on Prosperous Bay Plain, which is on the eastern coast of the island. The runway will be 2,250 metres long to support the safe operation of long-haul jet aircraft. Cost estimates for the project were not mentioned, pending an international tendering process.
UK assistance to St Helena, with a population of only 3,900, is about £13 million a year. This includes budgetary support to meet essential public services and to subsidise the island's dedicated shipping service.
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