It was not until 1992 that the Commission on Citizenship was established, restoring the islanders’ rights including the right of abode. In 2002, the right to British passports was restored.
In 1989, Prince Andrew launched the replacement RMS St Helena to serve the island; the vessel was specially built for the Cardiff–Cape Town route and featured a mixed cargo/passenger layout.
The Saint Helena Constitution took effect in 1989 and provided that the island would be governed by a Governor, Commander-in-Chief, and an elected executive and legislative council. In 2002, the British Overseas Territories Act 2002 granted full British citizenship to the islanders and renamed the dependent territories (including Saint Helena) the British Overseas Territories. In 2009, The St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Constitution Order 2009 gave all three equal status; the British Overseas Territory was renamed Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.
Located in the South Atlantic Ocean on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, more than 2,000 kilometers (1,200 mi) from the nearest major landmass, Saint Helena is one of the most remote places in the world. The nearest port on the continent is Moçâmedes in southern Angola; connections to Cape Town in South Africa are used for most shipping needs, such as the cargo boat that serves the island, the MS Helena.
The island is associated with two other isolated islands in the southern Atlantic, also British territories: Ascension Island, about 1,300 kilometers (810 mi) due northwest in more equatorial waters, and Tristan da Cunha, which is well outside the tropics 2,430 kilometers (1,510 mi) to the south. The island is situated in the Western Hemisphere and has the same longitude as Cornwall in the United Kingdom. Despite its remote location, it is classified as being in West Africa by the United Nations.
The island of Saint Helena is 122 km2 (47 sq mi) in area, and is composed largely of rugged terrain of volcanic origin (the last volcanic eruptions occurred about 7 million years ago). Coastal areas are covered in volcanic rock and are warmer and drier than the center. The highest point of the island is Diana’s Peak at 818 m (2,684 ft). In 1996 it became the island’s first national park. Much of the island is covered by New Zealand flax, a legacy of former industry, but there are some original trees augmented by plantations, including those of the Millennium Forest project, which was established in 2002 to replant part of the lost Great Wood and is now managed by the Saint Helena National Trust. The Millennium Forest is being planted with indigenous gumwood trees.
When the island was discovered, it was covered with unique indigenous vegetation, including a remarkable cabbage tree species. The island’s hinterland must have been a dense tropical forest but the coastal areas were probably also quite green. The modern landscape is very different, with widespread bare rock in the lower areas, although inland it is green, mainly due to introduced vegetation. There are no native land mammals, but cattle, cats, dogs, donkeys, goats, mice, rabbits, rats and sheep have been introduced, and native species have been adversely affected as a result. The dramatic change in landscape must be attributed to these introductions. As a result, the string tree (Acalypha rubrinervis) and the Saint Helena olive (Nesiota elliptica) are now extinct, and many of the other endemic plants are threatened with extinction.