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

Travel To/From Ascension Island

Following the rerouting of the Airbridge last week, we appreciate that there is
considerable anxiety on island.

We are working incredibly hard with MOD and the Foreign Office to find a solution to
the current access issues as soon as we can, with the Administrator, Marc Holland,
working from the UK as part of those discussions.
Ministers are being kept up to date with the issues and the potential solutions, and
we are in discussions with local organisations to find solutions taking account of
essential passenger movements, and the needs of vital public services.
The Royal Mail Ship (RMS) will continue to provide access to the island and is
scheduled to run until February 2018 on its normal schedule. The next RMS is
scheduled to leave the dry dock on 3 May. However, this service is fully booked, and
affected employees should contact their employers about their transport
arrangements.

The tender process is underway to provide an airlink to St Helena in the very near
future including a minimum of a monthly flight to Ascension. The FIRS cargo service
remains unaffected and will continue to operate as normal.

We are working with the MOD to find an interim option to allow the movement of
personnel both to and from Ascension. However it is likely that these interim
measures will allow only the transportation of essential personnel and goods.
Until further notice, we suggest you work with your employer to re-route via St
Helena on the RMS and approach your travel insurance regarding any financial
losses incurred.

If you have any concerns please contact aigenquiries@ascension.gov.ac in the first
instance. For commercial passengers please contact Ascension Island Flight
Bookings on flight.bookings@ascension.gov.ac
Ascension Island Government
Administrator’s Office
Georgetown
Ascension Island
27th April 2017

Shark Awareness

As people are aware there have been an unusually large number of sharks around Ascension Island this last year and several Islander articles informing people of this increased abundance and the records of sightings collected so far have been published. AIG has also provided bins at the pier-head and asked fishermen to dispose of their fish waste in these bins in an attempt to remove the association of sharks with a constant food source in this area. These regular sightings at the pier-head saw social swimming there stopped (ie NY jump cancelled) as members of the public could see the sharks from the pier. However as shark sightings at Comfortless Cove and English Bay were limited the public continued to use the beaches to swim in the sea.
The recent shark attack incident has prompted a need to reassess the safety of swimming in any of Ascension waters, whether there has been a shark sighting or not. We must now of course accept that these beaches can no longer be considered safer than the pier-head for the public to use.
This is the first recorded shark incident on a swimmer in Ascension; however the increased number of sharks in our waters has brought this endangered species into conflict with swimmers at one of our traditionally safe swimming locations. Though it is worth bearing in mind that shark attacks are rare the recent incident is a reminder that we share the water with an apex predator and they deserve every respect when we enter their ocean.
Therefore we would advise that people don’t take unnecessary risks and ensure that both humans and sharks are given their own space to remain safe. See below some guidelines for entering waters in areas with known shark sightings/incidents.
It is not AIG’s intention to impose legal restrictions on people using the beaches and/or entering the sea. As with the swell conditions, any swimming in the sea is at the public’s own risk, if in doubt, don’t go in.
Warning signs are in place on the two public beaches. General guidance as to the presence of sharks in the waters will also be added to the usual safe swimming briefing given at the airhead and to visiting vessels.

Guidance for entering the water in areas with known shark sightings
• Check out the water before entering where possible – go to higher ground and look to see if any sharks are in the area – though of course be aware that sharks can still enter an area later on.
• Stay out of the water at dawn, early evening, and night, when some species of sharks may move inshore to feed on fish or baby turtles. Sharks are well equipped to locate prey even when visibility is poor.
• Avoid areas where fish waste enters the water.
• It is prudent not to enter the water with an open wound, however small it may be.
• After large swells the waters can become murky – avoid swimming during murky sea conditions.
• Do not wear high-contrast clothing (orange and yellow are said to be risky colours) or shiny jewellery (which may appear to be like fish scales). Sharks see contrast very well.
• Refrain from excessive splashing. Keep pets, which swim erratically, out of the water. Sharks are attracted to such activity.
• Leave the water quickly and calmly if a shark is sighted. Do not provoke, harass, or entice a shark, even a small one.
• If fish or turtles start to behave erratically, leave the water. They may be behaving like that because there is a shark in the area.
• Experts suggest that incidents with sharks are more common on lone swimmers – swim, surf, or dive with other people to reduce risk.
• If you are diving and are approached by a shark, stay as still as possible. If you are carrying fish or other catches, release the catch and quietly leave the area.
Though not thought to be connected with the recent incident we would like to reiterate our policy of preventing the regular discarding of fish waste into the sea by using the bins provided. The regular source of food encourages the sharks to that area and gives them reason to remain there. Please also take your food and fish waste away from English Bay and Comfortless Cove to be disposed of at home or in the bins at the pier-head.

Ascension Island Government
Administrator’s Office
Georgetown
Ascension Island
24th April 2017

Flight Bookings Suspended Until Further Notice

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) are temporarily re-routing the South Atlantic Airbridge via an alternative location and have decided to suspend operations to Ascension Island for the landing of the Airbus A330 (AirTanker Voyager) until further notice.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and MOD are working closely to put in place measures to support the people who work on Ascension Island. Arrangements are currently being made to repatriate individuals currently on Ascension Island who are unable to travel back to the UK on the Airbridge due to the re-routing.

Unfortunately, Ascension Island Travel Agency (AITA) is unable to process any further flight bookings (new bookings or amendments) until we have clarity about an alternative service to and from Ascension Island.

AITA will contact all passengers booked to travel to Ascension Island in the coming weeks to provide further information about their booking. However, please be advised that at this stage, all non-essential passengers are unlikely to be able to travel to Ascension Island.

A further update will be provided in due course.

Please contact the Director of Resources, Jamie Manson at jamie.manson@ascension.gov.ac or on +(247) 67000 extension 110 if you have any concerns regarding this matter.

19 April 2017

Voyager Air Tanker Flights Suspended

As part of on-going monitoring of the state of repair of the Ascension Island’s runway, the MOD is temporarily rerouting the South Atlantic Airbridge via an alternative location and have decided to suspend operations to Ascension Island for landing the A330 (Voyager Air Tanker) until further notice.

The MOD will ensure the continuation of military support to the Falkland Islands through an alternative hub, and are working the Foreign Office to put in place measures to support the people who work on Ascension Island.

AIG will issue further updates once further information has been received from the MOD.

Please note this will not affect emergency medical evacuation flights.

For any immediate emergency concerns over the Easter bank holiday, please contact Iain Robertson, AIG’s Director of Operations.

For after the Easter bank holiday or for non-immediate concerns, please contact AIG’s Policy Officer Matt Pritchard-Evans on matthew.pritchard-evans@ascension.gov.ac or 247 67000 ext 116.

Ascension Island Government

 

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.