The cruise ship Oriana berthed yesterday and will set off tonight with 53 retiring expatriate civil servants and 72 dependants.
The P&O liner will be joined this afternoon by Cunard's QE2, which will collect 13 expats and 19 relatives before taking a slightly different route back to Britain. The officers are exercising their contractual right to a sea passage home, at a cost to the taxpayer of $9.9 million, or $62,700 per head.
The sea-passage option was introduced in 1972 but taken out of new contracts from 1984. There was an outcry five years ago when the Government tried to replace it with a cheaper alternative. The Association of Expatriate Civil Servants claim the colonial perk will continue after the change of sovereignty because the Government was contractually bound to deliver it to those who qualified.