• Alexandros Vrailas

Goodbye JET FERRY 1

This is an extra post for the month of January, as I learned a couple of days ago that the high speed ferry JET FERRY 1 of GA Ferries has been sold for demolition, after 21 years of service (even though her last 8 years were spent under lay-up), 16 of which were spent in Greek waters. She arrived in Aliağa in Turkey today, and she is now the first-ever Greek high speed ferry to have been sold for scrap. She is also the third youngest ferry in the history of the Greek coastal service to ever be demolished, after the landing craft PANAGIA ARMATA of Armata NE (which only operated for five years, between 1979 and 1984, before she was curiously scrapped in Greece), and the Ro-Ro carrier THESSALONIKI of Saos Ferries (which was sold for scrap in 2014, at the age of 19, after 6 years of lay-up in Alexandroupolis). It also means that she is the second youngest-ever Greek passenger ship to be 'naturally' scrapped. The term 'naturally' refers to the fact that she was not sold for scrap because she had suffered an accident or because she had sunk and later had to be salvaged in oder to be demolished. She was scrapped mainly because of her long lay-up in the port of Piraeus (8 years, which makes her lay-up one of the longest ones in the history of Greece's main port) and because there was no company showing interest in reactivating her despite the numerous auctions that were held by the Piraeus Port Authority in order to remove her from the port.

The JET FERRY 1 laid-up in 2015, the last year she spent in the port of Piraeus.,

Regarding the ship and her career, we can clearly say that she had an unfortunate path, particularly because of her short spells in various services and ultimately because of her long lay-up. If she had received good care by her owners and had been quickly sold by them during their economic difficulties, then she would have avoided the torches of the scrapyards for sure. But even if we have a look at her career from the moment she was built, she encountered many obstacles, as she failed to establish herself in Northern Europe, going through three different names, four operators and three lines of operation in just five years. She was one of many high speed ferries to arrive in Greece during the early 2000s in order to provide quick, reliable and efficient service between mainland Greece and the Greek Islands. At the time of her arrival, her company, GA Ferries, was at still at the heart of its hay days. Despite her potential as a high speed craft and her young age at the time she joined GA Ferries, the JET FERRY 1 eventually did not experience the same success that her rivals met during the 2000s. She initially sought to reduce the duration of the trip on the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line on the Ionian Sea, but she was unable to overthrow the incumbent company operating there, Blue Star Ferries. As a result, she moved to the Sporades, where she finally found a stable role. But even there, while she had a respectable service, she failed to really stand out as one of the best ships of the area. The JET FERRY 1 was the first, and, ultimately, only high speed craft that operated under their colours. The company already had the veteran ferries DALIANA, MILENA, ROMILDA, RODANTHI, MARINA and the Ro-Ro carrier NICOLAS A, and had also acquired the ferry DIMITROULA in 1997. But the Greek financial crisis completely changed the situation a decade later, with the company abruptly ending its operations in 2009, and with all its ships being abandoned by their crews in Piraeus by the end of that year. All ships were sold for scrap in 2011 and in 2012, with the JET FERRY 1 being the last survivor until today.

The JET FERRY 1 was ordered in Norway in 1994, at the Mjellem Yards in Bergen, by the Danish company Grenaa-Hundested Linien as the KATTEGAT, named after the eponymous strait on which her company was operating. She was one of the two sister ships ordered by her company in order to operate on their namesake line on the Kattegat. Her sister ship, the DJURSLAND, however, never entered service for Grenaa-Hundested Linien as they went bankrupt in 1996, the year during which she was completed. She was instead transferred to British company P&O European Ferries, was renamed JETLINER, and spent the beginning of her career on the Cairnryan-Larne line on the North Channel. The KATTEGAT, which was built in 1995, however, managed to operate for Grenaa-Hundested Linien, replacing the previous ferries operating for the company. These were the older DJURSLAND, which had been operating since 1981 and had been sold to Lineas Fred. Olsen in 1994 for service on the Canary Islands Archipelago as the BENCHIJIGUA, and the Danish veteran ferry PRINSESSE ANNE-MARIE of Let Line, which had been chartered for the 1994 season. The KATTEGAT was the third ship in the history of the company to bear that name. The first KATTEGAT (which operated under that name from 1961 to 1969) was coincidentally the legendary ICARUS of Greek company ANTE Samou-Ikarias from 1980 to 1991 and later the EUROPEAN GLORY of fellow Greek company European Seaways from 1991 to 1997. The second KATTEGAT operated from 1972 to 1978, and then went on to have spells as the TIGER with P&O Normandy Ferries (1978-1985) and Townsend Thoresen (1985-1986), and then as the ÅLANDSFÄRJAN for Finnish company Viking Line (1986-2008), before moving to her current role as an expedition cruise ship on the Arctic Ocean and on the Antarctic Ocean in 2008, as the EXPEDITION of Canadian company Expedition Tours Shipping Company. The third KATTGAT, by then the only ship of her company, began service during the summer of 1995 on the Grenaa-Hundested line. She operated under the Danish flag and was registered in Grenaa. However, the service was not successful, as she was unable to outmatch her competitors from rival company Mols Linien, whose services on the Aarhus-Odden line and on the Ebeltoft-Odden line were preferred by passengers traveling on the Kattegat. She also had a problem with her engines in late 1995. Ultimately, before the 1996 summer season began, her owners ceased operations as they went bankrupt, leaving her and her unfinished sister ship laid-up in Grenaa, after just one year of service.

The JET FERRY 1 as the KATTEGAT in Hundested, during her first year of operations. It was ultimately her only year under Grenaa-Hundested Linien. Picture taken by Claus Carlsen and available on www.shipspotting.com.


The KATTEGAT however did not remain under lay-up for long, as she was sold a month later to Danish company DSB (Danske Statsbaner, which stands for Danish State Railways), which was (and still is) the largest railway operator in Denmark, while being owned by the Danish State at the time. The company not only operated railway services, but also ferries that would allow their trains to cross the Baltic Sea in order to connect Denmark with Germany and Sweden. This service was managed by the DSB Rederi division, which took care of the ferries transporting the company's trains. By joining DSB, the KATTEGAT was the first high speed craft in the history of the company. She was renamed BERLIN EXPRESS (being named after Germany's capital city) and changed her port of registry from Grenaa to Copenhagen. By entering service on the Rostock-Gedser line in 1996 (which had been abandoned by the company Europa Linien, which had ceased operations during that same year), she became the first high speed ferry to ever connect Germany with Denmark via the Baltic Sea. She notably contributed to a rapid connection of Berlin with Copenhagen, serving as a bridge between the two countries for which these cities serve as capital cities.

The BERLIN EXPRESS seen in Rostock in 1996, during her spell under DSB Rederi. The name of the line she was serving (the Rostock-Gedser line) was written on both sides of her hull. Picture taken by Simon Wepe and available on www.shipspotting.com.


Despite her introduction to the new service and being the fastest ship to connect Germany with Denmark, the BERLIN EXPRESS did not experience the success her company had been expecting. Moreover, the high fuel costs that she required in order to sail and the fact that she could not carry lorries made her less useful than the conventional ferries owned by the company. Just a year later, and barely two years since the completion of her construction, the ship experienced another change of ownership. Indeed, in 1997, DSB decided to merge with Swedish company SweFerry, which had been cooperating together on the Helsingør-Helsingborg line on the Øresund since 1991, and thus established the Danish company Scandlines. The following year, the newly-formed company decided to merge with German company Deutsche Fährgesellschaft Ostsee (DFO), becoming German-Danish in the process. The BERLIN EXPRESS, like all of her DSB Rederi fleetmates, was thus transferred to Scandlines. She resumed service on the Rostock-Gedser line for the 1997 season, and also remained there in 1998.

The BERLIN EXPRESS in Rostock in 1997, shortly after having been transferred from DSB to Scandlines. Picture taken by Sebastian Ziehl and available on www.shipspotting.com.


After spending three seasons on the Rostock-Gedser line, Scandlines were not satisfied with the ship's performance and decided to seek a new operator for her. By that time, the company was ordering environmentally-friendly double-ended ferries, and also wanted to maintain an efficient freight service. This did not require the BERLIN EXPRESS as she was a high speed craft, as she was not able to transport any freight at all. Consequently, she was replaced by the conventional ferry KRONPRINS FREDERIK (built in 1980) on the Rostock-Gedser line.


As a result, in 1999, she was chartered for the summer season to the Spanish joint venture Trasarmas, which consisted of a brief cooperation of the two Spanish giants Trasmediterránea and Naviera Armas (the word Trasarmas is therefore a portmanteau of the two companies' names), who both sought to outmatch the established company in the region, Lineas Fred. Olsen. She was renamed GOMERA JET and was given the Spanish flag, while being registered in San Sebastián de La Gomera. She entered service on the Canary Islands Archipelago, being deployed on the Los Cristianos-San Sebastián de La Gomera line. She was therefore connecting the island of Tenerife with the island of La Gomera on a daily basis. But the service there was not successful either, and she was unable to dethrone Lineas Fred. Olsen from their status as the best company operating on the Canary Islands Archipelago. More shockingly, she was outperformed by the ferry that she herself had replaced when she was built for Grenaa-Hundested Linien, the BENCHIJIGUA (the ex-DJURSLAND), as well as by the BAÑADEROS (which later became the SAMOTHRAKI of Greek company Saos Ferries from 2005 to 2011), which was twenty years older than she was. After a disappointing season, Trasarmas sent the GOMERA JET back to Scandlines in early 2000. She was again renamed BERLIN EXPRESS. Having been deemed to surplus requirements by the latter, she was laid-up in Nykøbing Falster until June 2000, when she was sold to Greek company GA Ferries.

The GOMERA JET in 1999, in Los Cristianos in Tenerife, while undergoing her unsuccessful charter to Trasarmas. Picture taken by Michael Segeth and available on www.shipspotting.com.

The ship was acquired by her new owners in time for the 2000 summer season. GA Ferries belonged to the Greek shipowner Gerasimos Agoudimos, whose initials, G.A., made-up the company's name. Founded in 1988, they had a very successful period during the entire 1990s decade. They quickly established themselves on the Cyclades, the Dodecanese, the Northeast Aegean Sea and Crete (while also having a brief but less successful spell on the Adriatic Sea), and mainly operated on lifelines that were subsidised by the Greek Ministry of Shipping, as well as on lines with limited competition. The company began their activities with the two Japanese-built sister ships DALIANA and MILENA, which entered service in 1988 and 1989, respectively. They then acquired the ferry DIMITRA in 1989, and operated her until 1994, when she was sold to Agapitos Lines, whereupon she was renamed NAÏAS EXPRESS (she later became the EXPRESS ADONIS of Minoan Flying Dolphins/Hellas Flying Dolphins). Afterwards, the Japanese-built ferries MARINA (which entered service in 1994) and RODANTHI were massive successes and further cemented the company's presence on the Aegean Sea. Then came the first ROMILDA in 1992, before she was sold in 1993 to Ventouris Sea Lines (becoming the APLLON EXPRESS 2, and later the PANAGIA EKATONTAPYLIANI of Agapitos Lines before joining Minoan Flying Dolphins/Hellas Flying Dolphins and rejoining Ventouris Sea Lines once again), when the company bought the second ROMILDA from P&O European Ferries. In 1994, they bought the IONIAN SEA of Strintzis Lines and renamed her DIMITRA, before selling her three years later to DANE Sea Line (where she ended her career as the LEROS in 2001). In 1996, GA Ferries introduced the Ro-Ro carrier NICOLAS A, while they then bought the Italian ferry VERGA of Tirrenia Di Navigazione in 1997, renaming her DIMITROULA.


Despite this rapid fleet increase, GA Ferries faced a major threat at the end of the 1990s decade: the launching of Minoan Flying Dolphins in 1999, which had absorbed almost all of the company's former competitors, and notably the ones that were operating on the Cyclades. Furthermore, Minoan Flying Dolphins acquired the high speed ferry HIGHSPEED 1 (built in 1996) from Minoan Lines, and also ordered the HIGHSPEED 2, the HIGHSPEED 3 and the HIGHSPEED 4, which were all delivered in 2000, in to serve the Cyclades. Strintzis Lines (which became Blue Star Ferries in the same year after being purchased by Attica Group) had also deployed the newly-built BLUE STAR ITHAKI in the same area. Therefore, GA Ferries found themselves with dangerous competitors who were looking to expand their fleet with newer, much more modern, and much faster ships. As he had previously been one of the main forces on the Aegean Sea, and notably on the Cyclades, Gerasimos Agoudimos decided to strike back by bringing the BERLIN EXPRESS in order to show that he was also looking to make his fleet much younger, as most of his ferries would be turning 30 during the early 2000s. But another major event occurred, this being that GA Ferries sold 46% of their stake to Minoan Flying Dolphins. While the company was eventually not absorbed by the latter, this meant that both GA Ferries and Minoan Flying Dolphins would need to cooperate on the Cyclades. Because of this, the BERLIN EXPRESS, which was due to operate against the four 'Highspeeds' of Minoan Flying Dolphins on the Cyclades (it was rumoured that she would be deployed on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos line), was no longer able to do so.


As a result of this outcome, GA Ferries decided to deploy her on the Ionian Sea instead, thus competing only against Blue Star Ferries on their most dominant line in the region: the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line. This marked the first time that GA Ferries began operations on the Ionian Sea. The BERLIN EXPRESS was quickly refitted in Perama and was renamed EXPRESS IONION (in order to imitate the use of the 'EXPRESS' prefix which was used by many ferries under Minoan Flying Dolphins), while also switching to the Greek flag and being registered in Piraeus. When she entered service in the summer of 2000, she became first monohull high speed ferry in the Greek coastal service, while also becoming the first high speed craft to to be deployed on the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line. She brought little success to GA Ferries, but she was unable to defeat the conventional ferry KEFALONIA (now the NISSOS KEFALONIA for Kefalonian Lines), despite this ship being 20 years older than her. Even though she was faster than the already-speedy KEFALONIA, she lacked the passenger areas and the comfortable service that a high speed craft needed. Furthermore, the quality of her trips on the Ionian Sea were not really appreciated (her indoor areas were not in great condition, her A/C did not always work well, and she was operating just a few knots above the KEFALONIA despite being a high speed ferry and charging passengers twice the amount of the KEFALONIA's ticket fee), whereas the more experienced KEFALONIA still remained a very popular choice among local travelers, which therefore limited the success of the EXPRESS IONION's services.

The EXPRESS IONION seen leaving for Greece in order to begin service under GA Ferries in 2000. Picture taken by Dirk Jankowsky and available on www.faktaomfartyg.se.


She was renamed JET FERRY 1 in the middle of the 2000 season, and she thus mirrored Minoan Flying Dolphins by acquiring a name highlighting her speed and with a number. GA Ferries possibly considered acquiring another high speed ferry in order to rename her JET FERRY 2, but this eventually never happened. Furthermore, the ship's livery resembled more to that of the 'Highspeeds' (notably the number'1' was written in a larger font, as it was the case with her competitors) than that of GA Ferries.

The JET FERRY 1 in 2001 in Patras, in her second and eventually final season on the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line. Picture from www.shipfriends.gr.


Because of Blue Star Ferries' success on the Ionian Sea and being unable to step over the KEFALONIA, the JET FERRY 1 left the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line following the summer of 2001, after just two seasons. She was not replaced by another ship owned by GA Ferries, and the latter knew that she would not be able to stand a chance against the ships of Minoan Flying Dolphins and of Blue Star Ferries on the Cyclades. As a result, her company decided to deploy her on the Sporades, on the Agios Konstantinos-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos line in 2002. She was brought in order to compete against Minoan Flying Dolphins (which by that time had been renamed Hellas Flying Dolphins) in the area, and she became the first-ever high speed ferry to operate there, while also being the first GA Ferries ship to be deployed there on a full-time basis (the DIMITROULA served the Sporades while connecting them with Thessaloniki, the Cyclades and Crete from 1997 to 1999 and in 2005). In 2003, GA Ferries bought back the 46% stake that they had sold to Minoan Flying Dolphins back in 1999, and thus reclaimed the possibility to operate as competitors against the company on the Aegean Sea. While being deployed on the Sporades in 2002, the JET FERRY 1 began to compete against different ships operating for Hellas Flying Dolphins under the Hellas Ferries division: the MACEDON (which was sold the following year to Goutos Lines), the EXPRESS HAROULA (now the EXPRESS SKIATHOS of Hellenic Seaways) and their hydrofoils. There, she did a pretty good job, but more competition came when Saos Ferries later deployed the NONA MARY, the younger ferry SAOS II as well as the PANAGIA SOUMELA. The competition further accelerated in 2005, when Hellas Flying Dolphins, which had been renamed Hellenic Seaways, brought two newly-acquired passenger-only catamarans, the FLYINGCAT 5 and the FLYINGCAT 6. Furthermore, two hydrofoils operated by newly-established company VoSpo Dolphins also imposed threats on the ship between 2004 and 2007, when they eventually ceased operations. Despite this, the JET FRRY 1 was able to operate conveniently. While she did not really operate as a high speed craft due to sailing under a much slower speed, her seasonal services on the Agios Konstantinos-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos line were generally appreciated. She had finally managed to establish herself on a line, after having previously struggled to settle in an area from the moment she was built and up until the start of her GA Ferries career.

The JET FERRY 1 seen in Agios Konstantinos in 2005, during her summer service on the Sporades. Picture from www.shipfriends.gr.

In 2007, the ship received the new GA Ferries livery, which consisted of squares of different shades of blue on the hull, thus abandoning the traditional white livery the company had used since its first year of operations, back in 1988. For the 2007 season, she was joined by the DIMITROULA on the Sporades, as the latter made a few trips on the Volos-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos-Thessaloniki line. After completing the 2008 season alone, she headed to Piraeus for her annual refit. However, before the start of the 2009 season, it was revealed that GA Ferries had not paid their workers for over 9 months due to apparent financial troubles. This began to become apparent as the company's fleet had become very old, with the conventional ferries deemed too slow and too outdated to sail on the Cyclades, the Dodecanese and the Northeast Aegean Sea. Passengers were preferring the younger and faster cruiseferries of Hellenic Seaways on the Cyclades and on the Northeast Aegean Sea, with a similar preference being seen for the ships of Blue Star Ferries on the Cyclades and on the Dodecanese. On the Western Cyclades, established companies like Hellenic Seaways, Ventouris Sea Lines, Aegean Speed Lines and Zante Ferries (which had just started service with the newly-acquired ferry ADAMANTIOS KORAIS) were deemed superior to the ships of GA Ferries. Towards the second half of the 2000s, the company was severely criticised numerous times by passengers, travel agencies and lorry companies for the multiple delays that its ships would experience during their trips. Furthermore, the subsidised lines were no longer feasible for the company, with many of them being taken over by NEL Lines, ANEK Lines and Blue Star Ferries. Gerasimos Agoudimos appeared to have had exhausted all his efforts in the Greek coastal service, and his company's demise seemed inevitable.

The JET FERRY 1 seen arriving in Skopelos in 2008, during what turned out to be her final active season. She was laid-up in Perama only weeks after this picture was taken. Picture from www.naviearmatori.net.


Despite all these issues, the company managed to operate in 2009, although solely during the summer season. The only ships that operated were the RODANTHI, the MARINA and the DALIANA. The JET FERRY 1, the ROMILDA, the MILENA, the ANTHI MARINA (which had been acquired by the company in 2003) and the DIMITROULA were taken out of service by GA Ferries and laid-up in Piraeus. Moreover, the Ro-Ro carrier NICOLAS A had already been arrested in Safaga in Egypt in 2008, after a failed charter to an Egyptian company. The DIMITROULA, the MILENA and the ANTHI MARINA were arrested in the E1 gate, while the ROMILDA remained docked in the E9 gate, whereas the JET FERRY 1 remained in the E6 gate. Her service on the Agios Konstantinos-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos line was taken over by the DALIANA for the 2009 summer season. Furthermore, the line continued to be served by a high speed ferry, as the service left by the GA Ferries was covered by one of the ships against which she was supposed to compete when initially being bought by GA Ferries: the HIGHSPEED 1 of Hellenic Seaways. After the 2009 summer season ended, all GA Ferries ships were laid-up in Piraeus, effectively bringing an end to the company's operations. The three only ferries that operated that year were laid-up alongside the ROMILDA in the E9 gate. They were all confiscated and seized by the Piraeus Port Authority in 2010, with the crews still remaining unpaid.


In late 2011, the DIMITROULA, the MARINA, the DALIANA, the ROMILDA and the MILENA left Piraeus for the Aliağa scrapyards. They were followed in early 2012 by the RODANTHI and the ANTHI MARINA. The NICOLAS A, which had been laid-up since 2008 in Safaga, ended up sinking there after being hit by a heavy storm in 2014. The JET FERRY 1 moved to the edge of the port's pier next to the E1 gate in late 2011, and she remained there for the next four years, as she seemed to be the only GA Ferries ship that could continue her career due to her age (then 16 years old) and due to her status as a high speed ferry. Numerous auctions were held, but all of them were unsuccessful, and the ship continued to remain abandoned in Piraeus.

The JET FERRY 1 seen laid-up in 2013 in Piraeus.

The JET FERRY 1 seen in the same spot in 2014, six years after her last day of operation.

The JET FERRY 1 laid-up in 2015. It was always quite sad to see her in that spot completely abandoned, without having the chance to ever return to service.

The JET FERRY 1 seen laid-up in Piraeus in 2015.

The JET FERRY 1 in her usual lay-up spot in Piraeus in 2015, which marked 20 years since her first year of service, back when she was known as the KATTEGAT and operating for Grenaa-Hundested Linien.

The JET FERRY 1 seen completely abandoned in Piraeus in 2015.

The JET FERRY 1 near the entrance pier of Piraeus in 2015.

The JET FERRY 1 laid-up in Piraeus in 2015.

Another view of the laid-up JET FERRY 1 in Piraeus in 2015.

My last-ever picture of the ship, during the summer of 2015, on my way to the Athens Airport in order to return New York City. I actually knew that the chances of seeing her again were slim. I intentionally waved a goodbye to her since I was unsure whether she would still be alive the following summer. Now I am pleased that I got to say this farewell to her.


In late 2015, however, she was towed from Piraeus to Elefsina Bay, where she remained until January 2016, when she departed for Turkey in order to be scrapped. At the same time, her sister ship, the JETLINER still operates efficiently in Indonesia, under the same name for Pelarayan Nasional Indonesia on the Makassar-Labuan Bajo line. The JET FERRY 1 is the last ship to have carried the livery of GA Ferries, as she was the last ferry owned by the company at the time they ceased operations to be scrapped. However, she is not the last ferry formerly owned by GA Ferries to be still alive, as the former ferry ALKMINI A, owned by the company between 2003 and 2004, still operates on the Baltic Sea as the WAWEL for Polferries on the Gdańsk-Nynäshamn line, and the first ROMILDA (owned between 1992 and 1993) is the current PANAGIA TINOU of Ventouris Sea Lines, but she is also likely to go to the scrapyards very soon because of her current company's recent economic troubles.

Even though she was not the best high speed ferry in Greece, the JET FERRY 1 surely impressed the residents of Skiathos, Skopelos and Alonissos, who have not seen a high speed ferry since NEL Lines' departure from the area in 2012. It was there that she had managed to find a permanent area of operations, something which was very hard for her in her early career, as she had three different operators in just five years, and unsatisfying performances on the Kattegat, on the Baltic, on the Canary Islands Archipelago and also on the Ionian Sea at the start of her career in Greece. She was obviously the fastest and most modern ship of her company (even though she did not always sail at a fast feed as it was expected of her), and I am sure she would have continued her career if she had been taken under good care by all of her companies; we can see that through her sister ship that is still operating today under high standards. Eventually, after eight years of misery, she has found peace, but her inconsistent services combined with the problems of her last owners ended her career prematurely, considering that ships that are more than twice her age still operate in Greece and abroad. Despite you not having a good end (as all ships I guess), thank you JET FERRY 1 for your contribution to the Greek coastal service.

#jetferry1 #expressionion #gaferries #ionian #aegean #sporades #piraeus #greece #farewell #scrap #extratribute

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