Category: Government

Travel to/from Ascension Island – Update

This information note sets out the current status of travel routes to/from Ascension Island. For further information about visiting Ascension Island (including entry permits), go to the ‘Visiting the Island’ page on the Ascension Island Government’s website; http://www.ascension-island.gov.ac/

Travel by Air:

As of 14th April 2017, the MOD decided to reroute the South Atlantic Airbridge via an alternative location. This decision was based on the MOD-assessed risk of continued use of the Airbus A330 Voyager aircraft, on the condition of the Wideawake runway. Therefore the South Atlantic Airbridge will no longer call at Ascension Island en route to the Falkland Islands, until the on-going full runway placement programme is completed on Ascension.

Please note this decision only effect the Airbus A330 Voyager aircraft, all other regular aircraft services continue as normal. This includes any emergency medical evacuation flights.

The MOD, United States Airforce (USAF), the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) are working with the Ascension Island Government, to determine the feasibility of any interim options to enable the movement of people to and from Ascension by air.

If you are currently working on Ascension or are due to start a posting and you are concerned about the impact on your travel arrangements please contact your employer directly.

Tourists should be aware that the Ascension Island Travel Agency have cancelled all passenger flights to or from Ascension Island on the Voyager, until further notice. Ascension Island Travel Agency are liaising with all passengers with live bookings to advise them of this decision. However we would also suggest passengers make contact with their travel insurance provider. For further information or clarification about your booking, please contact flight.bookings@ascension.gov.ac. However please note that the Ascension Island Travel Agency are unable to comment on when regular flights to and from Ascension may resume, or when any interim arrangement may be put into place and what it may consist of.

Travel by Sea:

The RMS St Helena continues to provide the main access route to Ascension Island by sea. After recently coming out of dry dock for urgent repairs, the ship will continue its route from South Africa (Cape Town) to St Helena and then on to Ascension Island. This service is currently scheduled until February 2018, or until the St Helena air service (via its airport) is in place. For further schedule information please see http://rms-st-helena.com/schedules-fares/.

If you are wishing to undertake a tourist visit to Ascension via the RMS St Helena, bookings can be made via the agents listed on the RMS website; http://rms-st-helena.com/contact-us/.

If you are planning to visit Ascension Island using your own vessel or yacht, please obtain further information on the Ascension Island Government’s website; http://www.ascension-island.gov.ac/visiting-the-island/. This will provide you with the necessary requirements prior to your travel.

For those who are currently working on Ascension Island with upcoming travel, you will now need to travel via the RMS St Helena. Please contact your employer to work through re-routing onto this service and approach your travel insurer.

It is envisaged that there will be a short-term increase in demand for RMS bookings, driven by the higher numbers of passengers needing to travel to and from Ascension by sea. Both Ascension Island Government and St Helena Government are aware of this and are working with the various stakeholders, in order to manage the demand levels.

Updated 16 May 2017

Ascension Island Government

 

 

Important announcement regarding travel to and from Ascension Island

TRAVEL BY AIR: The Ministry of Defence (MOD) is re-routing the South Atlantic Airbridge via an alternative location.  This is because the Airbus A330 Voyager aircraft used on the route between RAF Brize Norton, Ascension Island and the Falkland Islands is too heavy to land at Ascension Island.  The decision to re-route means the South Atlantic Airbridge will no longer call at Ascension Island en route to the Falkland Islands for the foreseeable future.
 
The MOD and Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) are working with the Ascension Island Government to determine the feasibility of interim options to enable the movement of passengers to and from Ascension.  This work will take some time to complete.  At this stage, it is likely that any interim measure that may be put in place would allow for the transportation of essential personnel and goods only.
 
Ascension Island Travel Agency are unable to say when regular flights to and from Ascension Island may resume, or when any interim arrangement may be put in place.   We do not expect South Atlantic Airbridge flights (operating with the Voyager aircraft) to recommence before 2019/20. Unfortunately, in light of this, we have no choice but to inform passengers that all RAF flights to or from Ascension Island on the Voyager are cancelled until further notice.
 
Ascension Island Travel Agency are liaising with all passengers with live bookings to advise them about this decision and to process refunds where applicable.  For further information or clarification, please contact flight.bookings@ascension.gov.ac in the first instance.
 
 
TRAVEL BY SEA: Travellers wishing to visit Ascension Island are advised that the only regular service to and from Ascension Island is via the Royal Mail Ship St Helena.  Further information about the RMS St Helena schedule and fares are can be found at: http://rms-st-helena.com/schedulesfares/ or from the Travel & Shipping Office at the Pierhead, in person or on +(247) 66244.
 
 
AITA acknowledge and apologise for the disruption and inconvenience that this will likely cause for travellers planning to visit Ascension Island in the coming months.  You are advised to talk to your travel insurance provider at the earliest opportunity should you have bookings for connecting flights or accommodation.
 
Ascension Island Travel Agency 28 April 2017

Ascension takes part in Safer Internet Day 2017

On Tuesday 7th February Ascension Island took part in the UK and Overseas Territory wide ‘Safer Internet Day’.

Two Boats School took part in activities that encouraged pupils to think about the power of images on the internet. This is important in this age of instant information sharing, when ‘selfies’ and other photos can circulate round the world instantly.

Assemblies and activities were tailored to encompass the different age groups in the school. Alongside some fun activities the children learnt the serious message about how to stay safe online and what to do if something worries you.

It wasn’t only the children who got involved either, as a group of parents attended an information session giving them similar information as the children and opening their perspective to the ease of information sharing and how this information can be used by others.

Ascension Island Government, 16 February 2017

Deputy Director of Overseas Territories visits Ascension Island

The last time the FCO’s Ben Merrick was on island was in October 2015 when Ascension was celebrating the Bicentenary since the British Garrison arrived.

Last week, on his way back to the UK from St Helena, Ben stopped over on Ascension for three days, catching up with former and new contacts and being briefed on current issues. On his first day, Ben was able to attend a meeting of the Ascension Safeguarding Board, following which members of the AIG team gave him a tour of the island’s infrastructure which will be the subject of a FCO review in the coming months.

Day 2 started early with discussions with the Island’s major Employers and a tour of the runway. Later in the day Ben (who was joined by Shahbaz Baloch, FCO) attended an informal meeting of the Island Council, where the Employment Law revision and diesel fuel supply for cars were discussed. As the HMS Portland and RFA Gold Rover were in port, Ben joined the Administrator in welcoming Captain Stroude and officers from both ships, along with visitors and locals, to afternoon tea at the Residency.

The delay in the airbridge gave both Ben and Shahbaz a further opportunity to explore Ascension and they were able to enjoy a walk around the recently-restored Elliots path as well as seeing turtles laying on Long Beach.Ben also assisted in ‘rescuing’ a stranded turtle at Deadman’s Beach!

Ben has been the Deputy Director for the Overseas Territories since July 2015 and has direct oversight of the Southern Oceans Department (encompassing British Indian Ocean Territory, Falklands, St Helena, Ascension, Tristan da Cunha and Pitcairn) and the Child Safeguarding Unit.

Ascension Island Government
6 February 2017

Refuge buoy for English Bay

refuge-buoy

Following the tragic drowning of Private Fenton Matthew earlier this year, a decision was made to enhance the safety of all users at English Bay by installing a large tailor-made life-saving buoy in the waters, which would serve as a point of refuge should anyone experience any difficulties while swimming.  Thus, through the combined effort and generous donations from several island organizations and individuals, a custom made buoy was devised, ordered and delivered to Ascension.   

The buoy is three meters in diameter, weighs in at 800kg and has a guaranteed lifespan of 10–15+ years.  The core is made from closed cell polyethylene foam core and is surrounded by a yellow 12mm thick polyurethane nylon reinforced elastomer skin – three hull step cutouts were incorporated into the design to allow for easy access.  The   AIG Marine team completed the ensemble with the addition of grab ropes and a mast complete with LED warning lamp.

On Tuesday 15 November, a small gathering was held at the pier head, where the Administrator Marc Holland outlined the reasoning behind the purpose of the buoy and what is hoped it will achieve in the future.  Thanks were extended to Wg Cdr Andy Pittock (RAF), the MOD, Paul Mildon (Babcock), Duncan Smith (CSO), Ray Ellick (Sure) and Major Daniel Schempp (USAF) for their company/individual contributions towards the overall cost, with special thanks also being extended to Wg Cdr Pittock for arranging free passage for the buoy on the FIRS – a huge cost saving.  Recognition was also given to the AIG Marine team for all the hard work that had gone into adding the final touches, as to Carl Thomas and Richard Joshua for arranging the overall design.   The ceremony was then concluded with a blessing given by Father Jack Horner, a few photos and the chance for folk to examine the buoys features.. 

The buoy is now in place in the waters at English Bay, where it is hoped that it will prove a useful means of providing additional safety to all users of this area. 

Just a small reminder…the main function of this buoy is to provide refuge for swimmers in distress, it is not a mooring buoy and therefore  boat owners should refrain from tying up to it at any point in time.  Your co-operation in this is greatly appreciated.

Commonwealth Walkway Unveiled on Ascension Island

Ascension Island today celebrated the opening of its Commonwealth Walkway around Georgetown. The Commonwealth Walkway is a 7 km pathway connecting 10 of Georgetown’s historical highlights which can be enjoyed as a continuous route over a couple of hours or in sections.

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The Walkway begins outside the AIG Government offices and is marked by a plaque and a panel showing the route and giving historical context to the points along the Walkway. These points of interest can be explored in more detail by downloading full details of the route from The Outdoor Trust (paper copies also available from the Ascension Island Conservation Office).

The Walkway was officially opened by Captain of the RMS St Helena, Captain Rodney Young, at an opening ceremony attended by representatives of the Heritage Society and members of the community. The Administrator, Marc Holland, also made a short speech, encouraging locals and tourists alike to explore the Walkway. The Administrator paid special thanks to Hugo Vickers and Jim Walker of the Outdoor Trust for approaching Ascension with the great idea in the first place and the Ascension Heritage Society, in particular Helen Scott and Drew Avery, for their full support, including raising funds for the project and helping to arrange today’s ceremony.

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The project has been made possible through the support of the Ascension Island Heritage Society and the Ascension Island Government and is the brainchild of The Outdoor Trust. Her Majesty The Queen has given The Outdoor Trust permission to create walkways in cities throughout the Commonwealth, marked with Her personal Royal cypher. The Trust plans to create 100 new walkways in the main towns and cities of the Commonwealth’s 71 nations and territories in the next four years. The first Commonwealth Walkway was opened in Windsor in November 2015.

The Commonwealth Walkways will be within reach of two billion people and all will be dedicated to The Queen’s unfailing service and leadership as Head of the Commonwealth for more than 65 years. The Walkways will thread together 3,000 of the most significant highlights of the Commonwealth and each will be marked permanently with a large bronze plaque displaying The Queen’s personal EIIR Royal cypher.

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Special thanks are due to the MOD for arranging the safe transport of the panel and plaques and to AIG staff for their work to ensure the installation of the panel.

More information about the Commonwealth Walkways can be found at the website of The Outdoor Trust.

Saint Helena Government announces bi-monthly shipping service to St Helena and Cape Town

On 19 February, SHG announced the conclusion of a shipping contract with AW Ship Management Ltd.  AWSM will provide a sea freight service between Ascension and Cape Town via St Helena every two months.  As per the RMS, the service will be able to ship cars, sea containers, personal belongings and freezer goods. Pricing information will be released shortly but is expected to show a modest increase over the subsidised RMS service. A few berths will also be available on each voyage between the islands.  However, the principal means for transporting people between the islands will be a monthly air service with Comair.

Commenting on the agreement the Administrator, Marc Holland, said: ‘This is good news for the many people on Ascension who rely mainly on imports from South Africa and St Helena.  It provides welcome security to Saints working on Ascension that they will be able to ship their belongings home.   I will do another round of public meetings in the first week of March to answer any questions and to provide an update on the negotiations now underway with Comair on the details of the air link service.  I am grateful to the Governor and Councillors on St Helena for supporting the many months of hard and complex work by SHG officials to ensure that a sea freight service will operate between the two islands when the RMS service ends.

Governor Mark Capes said: ‘This important agreement with AWSM is the product of many months of demanding work and I warmly congratulate all concerned in bringing the negotiations to a satisfactory conclusion.  I know that it will be especially welcome news for Saints on Ascension who were understandably anxious to know that a freight service would be in place when the RMS service ends later this year.  The interests of the Saint community on Ascension are never far from the minds of their family and friends in SHG and in the private sector here on St Helena.  As in other areas of activity of mutual concern, this agreement is testimony to that and to the close cooperation between AIG and SHG.’

The full press release from SHG can be found on the SHG website.

AIG, 22 February

Children’s playground gets a revamp

Article by Nicola Dillon; Photos by Colin Duncan

playground 1

After months of planning and preparation work, the Ascension Island Government was pleased to officially open the Children’s Park on Tuesday, 2 February.

Ginny Ferson, Deputy Governor of Bermuda and the UK Senior Officer responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Wass Inquiry Report recommendations, had the pleasure of cutting the ribbon and declaring the park officially open.

Beforehand the Administrator, Marc Holland, spoke a few words describing the background to the playground renovation, which was one of the projects which were fostered under the umbrella of the Bicentenary year celebrations.   The project began as a £85K bid from the Development Fund in the last Appropriation Ordinance and was intended to upgrade the children’s playground to bring the facility up to required safety standards and to replace the old play equipment with new equipment.

At this stage the Administrator handed over to Councillor Nicholas John who became the Island Council champion for the park.  Councillor John had been involved in the project from start to finish and he was instrumental in the design, project management and procurement of equipment for the playground.

Councillor John said that there had been great teamwork across AIG and the island generally in the project.  The core project team was supported by various AIG teams as required.  He said that it had been a privilege and an honour to work alongside the team on the project.  The project had been approached with humour and good spirit as well as a serious amount of thought, hard graft and dedication.  The end result was a playground that not only enticed and accommodated all ages of children and their parents, but kept within budget, was aesthetically pleasing and conformed to British Safety Standards.

Particular mention was made of team leader, Nicky Herne, who took ownership of the project and invested a huge amount of personal time and effort to ensure its success.  Councillor John said that Nicky demonstrated once more his infallible attention to detail and desire for perfection and quality.  The project, said Councillor John, depended on Nicky’s trade craft and managerial ability.

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playground 4 playground 2

Councillor John gave thanks to the following:

  • IDL, Southern Pole Services and Redhall Engineering who donated concreting materials
  • Berard Dupres and Babcock for sponsoring a proportion of the water used by the water feature
  • Steve Brown who was responsible for deploying the workforce in support of the project
  • The AIG Fire department who washed the apparatus in readiness for the Christmas Eve celebrations
  • Shalane Thomas who was responsible for the financial aspect of the project and kept the budget on track
  • Nicky Benjamin and the excavation team for preparing the grounds. Special mention was made of Martin Henry and Kevin Wade for their support throughout the installation.  Councillor John commented that nothing was too much trouble for them!
  • Roy Francis and Raymond Andrews for construction work. Councillor John explained that there was a lot of work hidden underground which was crucial to the safety of the structures.  He thanked Roy and Raymond for their hard work and commitment to deliver the project as soon as possible.
  • Patrick (Toby) Brooks, Mario Williams and Nathan Thomas for the electrical installation
  • Adrian Williams and Roy Thomas who carried out the plumbing works
  • Darren Benjamin who was invaluable in assembling the apparatus and lending support for the construction work
  • The following staff members were also part of the project team: Gareth Henry, Glen Lawrence, Steven O’Connor, Cormac Crowie and Gerald March

All are to be congratulated on their fine achievement!

 

Publication of Wass Inquiry Report

Thursday 10 December 2015

The Ascension Island Government (AIG) today welcomes publication of the Wass Inquiry Report into Allegations Surrounding Child Safeguarding Issues on St Helena and Ascension Island, which follows an independent and comprehensive review of claims relating to child abuse on St Helena and Ascension Island carried out by Sasha Wass QC and the Inquiry team. The team visited St Helena and Ascension Island in March of this year. The report was published on 10 December in the UK Parliament, by means of a Written Ministerial Statement by Minister for the British Overseas Territories James Duddridge. Both the statement and the report can be viewed on the UK Government website at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-wass-inquiry-report-into-allegations-surrounding-child-safeguarding-issues-on-st-helena-and-ascension-island-redacted-version

The St Helena Government has also issued its own statement at: http://www.sainthelena.gov.sh/wass-inquiry-report-published/

AIG acknowledges and reaffirms the independence and credibility of this Inquiry – which received its full support and cooperation – and accepts the report’s recommendations. AIG will now consider the report’s findings in greater detail and discuss the issues it raises and follow up action with the Ascension Island Safeguarding Board and the Island Council.

At this early stage, we note in particular the following broad findings and recommendations:
• The report refutes the claim that child abuse is endemic on St Helena. It states: ‘The Inquiry Panel found no evidence that child abuse was either endemic or routine’
• Nor was there a cover up or corruption. The report ‘found no evidence of corruption in the St Helena Police Service, the St Helena Government, the FCO or DFID. Nor was there any evidence of a cover up, as suggested to the public.’
• The report found no evidence of police corruption or paedophilia on Ascension Island
• The report notes that attention needs to be given to the travel needs of St Helenians living on Ascension Island post-RMS, although this has recently been overtaken by the selection of Comair to provide an air service between Ascension Island and St Helena
• The report observes that an anomaly in the jurisdiction between St Helena and Ascension Island relating to the sentencing of offenders to community orders needs to be dealt with.

Significant progress has been made in child safeguarding on Ascension in recent years. AIG has adopted the Child Welfare Ordinance and Children in Bars legislation, which provide a modern framework for safeguarding on the island. The AI Safeguarding Board has adopted Child Protection guidelines, a criminal records check policy for adults working unsupervised with children, set up safe houses and the regulation of child-minding, and employed the island’s first full-time social worker.

We will continue to work closely with FCO, the St Helena Government and island employers to ensure we do all we can to protect children and the vulnerable. AIG and the UK Government take all accusations of child abuse extremely seriously and we are committed to ensuring that victims are heard and protected.

Of course, it would be naive to think that Government can tackle all of this alone. Everyone on St Helena and Ascension Island has a responsibility to work together to help to protect the vulnerable in our community and anyone with information that would assist the authorities is urged to come forward in confidence.
Notes to Editors

The Inquiry was commissioned by FCO and DFID Ministers to establish the truth of various allegations by carrying out a multi-disciplinary investigation into the claims made, providing an assessment of their genuineness, and making recommendations as appropriate. The allegations behind the Inquiry involved claims relating to child abuse in St Helena, police corruption and incompetence, and a conspiracy by SHG, FCO and DFID to cover these up.

The Inquiry was headed by Ms Sasha Wass QC, an accomplished barrister with substantial professional experience of dealing with these types of issues, supported by a multi-disciplinary team of experts.

The Wass Inquiry report can be down-loaded here.

A direct link to the Written Ministerial Statement can be found here.

AIG
10 December 2015

Two Boats School: Good with Outstanding Features – Officially

Provision at Two Boats School is at least good in all areas, with many excellent features. These are the findings of School Inspection Service, one of the contractors licensed by Ofsted to conduct inspections of British schools overseas.

The most important findings are:

  • Two Boats School is highly successful in meeting its aims
  • It provides a good education for its pupils, making use of its stimulating location
  • Commitment by staff to the interests and education of the pupils is paramount
  • Pupils’ behaviour is excellent
  • No teaching is less than good and a third of that observed was outstanding
  • The curriculum is good, and is broad and balanced
  • Pupils make good progress
  • Social and moral development of the pupils is excellent and their cultural and spiritual development is good
  • The school puts great emphasis on communication with parents
  • The school is very well led and managed
  • The school is well resourced
  • The school is successful in achieving high standards of performance
  • Strong emphasis is placed on safeguarding
  • Attention to the welfare, health and safety of pupils is excellent.

Following the very successful inspection last term, the UK Department for Education has confirmed British Schools Overseas status for Two Boats School and recognised that it complies with the required standards.  The school has also now been upgraded to Accredited Member status of the Council of British International Schools (COBIS). Two Boats is the only school in the South Atlantic to achieve these distinctions.

Headteacher, Mr David Blunt, welcomed the inspection findings; “Thank you again and congratulations to all the staff and pupils on this truly excellent report.  It is really good reading and presents a very fair picture of the school.  Thanks also to parents and Ascension Island Government colleagues for their support before and during the inspection process and continued commitment to the work of the school.”

 HH the Administrator Mr Marc Holland wrote to the Headteacher saying, “I would like to thank you and your team for the effort you put in over a number of months preparing for the inspection. The outcome of the review is a fantastic result for the school, the staff and the island. You should all be very proud.”

Cllr Cyril Leo, considering the report at the Island Council meeting on 5th February, said, “Congratulations (on the report) to you and your staff and I hope that it has brought reassurance to members of the public and parents of the good job that you are doing at the school”. Cllr Caroline Yon, Chair of the School Governor’s Committee, wished to pass on congratulations on behalf of the SGC to all of the staff and pupils at the school for their dedication and effort in achieving such excellent results.

Read the full report here.