• Alexandros Vrailas

Kyllini Port

Located on the Western Peloponnese, in the regional unit of Ileia, the port of Kyllini is among the most important ports of the Ionian Sea. It is located just an hour away from Patras by car or bus, and it is the main port operating ships that are deployed to the Southern Ionian Sea Islands: Zakynthos, Kefalonia and Ithaca. This is the case because the crossing to these islands is shorter, quicker, and far more convenient, in contrast with spending more time on ships leaving from ports such as Patras or Corinth. It is reached by KTEL buses which make daily routes between the Ionian Islands and Athens or Patras. Kyllini has seen many historic ships operating on the Ionian Sea, many of which operated or have been operating there for many years. The list includes:

The PROTEUS of Tyrogalas Ferries (1973-2006: 33 years)

The IONIS of Tyrogalas Ferries (1993-2015: 22 years)

The MARTHA of Miras Ferries (1968-1989: 21 years)

The ZAKYNTHOS 1 of ANEZ and Kefalonian Lines (1989-2007; 2012-present: 21 years)

The DIONISIOS SOLOMOS of Zante Ferries (1999-present: 16 years)

The ARGOSTOLI of Ionian Lines and Seven Islands Lines (1977-1993: 16 years)

The DIMITRIOS MIRAS of Miras Ferries (1988-2003: 15 years)

The AINOS of Strintzis Lines (1978-1990: 13 years)

The IONIAN STAR of Tyrogalas Ferries and Levante Ferries (2003-present: 12 years)

The ANDREAS KALVOS of Zante Ferries (2003-2015: 12 years)

The ZAKYNTHOS of ANEZ (1979-1989: 10 years)

The EPTANISOS of Strintzis Ferries (2003-2011: 8 years)

This clearly displays the stability of the Ionian Sea ferry service, which constantly gets renewed with modern ferries being bought through different periods (notably during 1977-1979, 2002-2003 and 2014-2015). Recently, the companies serving Zakynthos and Kefalonia have experienced various changes, by either becoming cooperators or simply by remaining rivals. In 1993, Ionian Ferries was established as a joint venture between companies Zante Ferries (operating the AGIOS DIONISIOS S, and later the DIONISIOS SOLOMOS and the ANDREAS KALVOS) and Tyrogalas Ferries (operating the PROTEUS and the IONIS, and later the IONIAN STAR), offering very reliable service during both the summer and the winter season. The joint venture was based in Zakynthos but also competed against Zakynthian operators ANEZ and Miras Ferries, and Kefalonian ships from Strintzis Lines. Both latter companies disappeared in the late 1990s, and ANEZ (operating the ZAKYNTHOS 1) joined Ionian Ferries, but left in 2006 because of economic issues. In the 2000s Ionian Ferries' main competitor was Strintzis Ferries (operating the EPTANISOS and the KEFALONIA), but the latter also ended up ceasing operations, as they went out of business in 2012, with Ionian Ferries taking over the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line on which they also operated. In 2013, a big competition began, and is still on today in Kyllini. ANEZ returned with the ZAKYNTHOS 1 to Ionian Ferries, and new company Kefalonian Lines, having bought the KEFALONIA from Strintzis Ferries, entered service on the Kyllini-Kefalonia-Ithaca line and on the Kyllini-Zakynthos line. They managed to take the ZAKYNTHOS 1 from ANEZ under charter, and began to operate even more in Zakynthos, until a new force emerged in 2014: Levante Ferries. A new company which had converted a Korean-built ferry into a magnificent, luxurious and supermodern ship known as the FIOR DI LEVANTE, entered the battlefield, and quickly managed to get Tyrogalas Ferries out of the Ionian Sea. The latter ended up deploying the IONIS to the Saronic Gulf and selling the IONIAN STAR to their new competitors in 2015. As a result, Ionian Ferries collapsed, and a new joint venture was created between Levante Ferries and Zante Ferries: Ionian Group. They are now one of the two opposing companies along with Kefalonian Lines. Also, both Kefalonian Lines and Levante Ferries recently announced that they will buy one new ship each, meaning that the competition will grow even bigger.

Despite all that local competition, Kyllini remains a pleasant and reliable port, with a big amount of space and a beautiful nearby beach, from which the view to the ferries is very impressive. Here are my photos from the port, which happened to be taken in the middle of the transition from Ionian Ferries to Ionian Group during the summer of 2015, and a few days before the sale of the IONIAN STAR to Levante Ferries.

The IONIAN STAR leaving the port, just upon our arrival, en route to Zakynthos.

The final Ionian Ferries 'fleetmates', the DIONISIOS SOLOMOS and the IONIAN STAR, together in Kyllini, during the final days of their operation under the joint venture. Both ships were built in Japan and used to belong to the same company while operating there: Shikoku Chuo Ferry. They were also operating on the same line, namely the Osaka-Kobe-Kawanoe-Niihama line, before the IONIAN STAR (then known as the NIIHAMA 2) was sold to South Korean company Kukjae Express. The DIONISIOS SOLOMOS (then known as the ROYAL KAWANOE) left Shikoku Chuo Ferry in 1999 and joined Zante Ferries. The IONIAN STAR reunited with her on the Ionian Sea when she entered service under Tyrogalas Ferries in 2003.

The DIONISIOS SOLOMOS seen loading passengers and vehicles for Kefalonia. She has been operating on the Ionian Sea under Zante Ferries since 1999.

The IONIAN STAR seen from further distance, heading towards Zakynthos.

And now it is the turn of the DIONISIOS SOLOMOS to leave Kyllini.

The stern of the DIONISIOS SOLOMOS, as she heads towards Kefalonia.

The DIONISIOS SOLOMOS en route to Kefalonia.

Just like in Piraeus, the Greek shipping companies in Kyllini have many ticket and travel agency kiosks that advertise them. Of course that tradition is also present in the Peloponnese, and all the companies make big efforts to encourage passenger to select their ships.

The Ionian Ferries ticket agency for Zakynthos during one of its final days in operation. It was later replaced by a sign of Ionian Group.

The Ionian Ferries ticket agency for the Kyllini-Kefalonia line.

Levante Ferries has a modern and stylish ticket agency building painted in yellow, which is the company's main colour. It is the first Greek ticket agency to ever feature an electronic board announcing the ship's upcoming schedules.

The Kefalonian Lines ticket agency for Kefalonia and Zakynthos, which has been painted all in blue.

Currently not operating, this is normally the ticket agency building of ANEZ, the owner of the ZAKYNTHOS 1. After the ship was chartered to Kefalonian Lines, the latter vacated the building but took advantage of the sign at the top of the building to advertise their Zakynthos itineraries, which began in late 2013.

A very interesting picture of a truck advertising Miras Ferries. It was a company that operated in Zakynthos from 1968 to 2003. Miras Ferries operated three ships: the MARTHA (built in 1968 in Greece), which was the first-ever passenger ferry that was deployed in Zakynthos, operating on the Kyllini-Zakynthos line until 1989, then on the Rafina-Marmari-Karystos line from 1990 to 1992 and then on the Neapolis Voion-Kythira-Antikythira line from 1992 to 1996, before being laid-up in Salamina for the next 18 years and being sent to the scrapyards in 2014; the THESEUS, which never operated on the Kyllini-Zakynthos line, but was deployed on the Neapolis Voion-Kythira-Antikythira line from 1990 to 1996, before spending the next 10 years under lay-up in Perama before being sold for scrap in 2006; and the DIMITRIOS MIRAS, named after her owner, built in 1972 in France as the cargo ship MONACO before she was sold to Greece in 1983 and operated under the names ION and OLYMPIA for Kratigos Shipping, until she was bought by Miras Ferries in 1989, being renamed and converted to a passenger ferry. She was deployed on the Kyllini-Zakynthos line from 1989 to 2003, before being sold to Saos Ferries, which renamed her NONA MARY and deployed her on the Aegean Sea (serving the Cyclades, the Sporades, Evoia, and the Northeast Aegean Sea) before selling her for scrap in 2012. The truck also features the company's old telephone number.

Despite not being the biggest port in Greece, Kyllini is a vital place for the connection of Zakynthos and Kefalonia (and also Ithaca) with the rest of Greece, and has proven that it has known many great ships that operate by using this port as their home base.

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