• Alexandros Vrailas

Piraeus Visit on 30 June 2015

30 June 2015 marked my first visit to the port of Piraeus, and thus my first interaction with the Greek coastal service ships for the 2015 season. I had the chance to go there in just a few minutes thanks to a lovely offer my grandmother proposed to our taxi driver at the time, who had transported us from Central Athens to Zea in order to see the Hellenic Maritime Museum. He very generously drove us to Piraeus so that I could see the ships for the first time in almost 11 months. The post is therefore dedicated to him and my grandmother, and I thank them both for giving me the pleasure to see my ships for the first time in my summer vacation.

The visit's came during a period that was marked by the peak of the Greek financial crisis, which was highlighted notably by the preparation of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' referendum, along with the closure of banks and the stabilisation of capital controls. Some ferries therefore were unable to operate for a few days, as banks were unable to provide them supplies for bunkering. This problem had more impact on the ferries of the Saronic Gulf and of the Western Cyclades. However, I got to see some ships operating normally, despite the problems of the Greek economy. I originally thought that the 2015 season would be a catastrophe for the Greek coastal service, compared to the comeback brought by 2014, but in the end, thanks to the fall of ferry tickets' prices and to the increasing use of Greek ferries by immigrants and refugees coming from the Middle East, 2015 was saved.

Here are some photos of the ferries I got to see during this short but enjoyable visit.

The Hellenic Maritime Museum, located in Zea.

We entered the port through the E1 gate, which is the departure and arrival gate for ferries operating to the Dodecanese Islands. We found only one ferry there, the DIAGORAS of Blue Star Ferries, which had just arrived from Astypalaia.

The well-known ferry DIAGORAS, which has been operating on the Dodecanese since 2001 (although she was laid-up in Piraeus between 2004 and 2006, when her previous owners, DANE Sea Line, went bankrupt, but fortunately returned to service after she was acquired by Blue Star Ferries). She has mainly operated on the Dodecanese lifeline (along with occasional calls to islands on the Cyclades and the Northeast Aegean Sea), and since 2012 she has been operating full-time on the Piraeus-Astypalaia-Patmos-Leipsoi-Leros-Kalymnos-Kos-Nisyros-Tilos-Symi-Rhodes-Castellorizon line.

The beautiful DIAGORAS anchored in Piraeus. It was the first time I ever saw her, and I was happy to have her as the first photographed ship for 2015.

After we left the E1 gat we passed by the Vassiliadis Shipyards, where we saw a ship on the Small Vassiliadis Drydock. This ship is the double-ended ferry ATHINA P, owned by Athinais Lines. She is deployed on the Perama-Salamina line, along with more than 25 ships of her type.

A view of the bridge of the ATHINA P, which resembles to the one typically-found in a Greek double-ended ferry. She left the drydock the next day and she returned to her regular service in Salamina.

As we moved further North we passed by the docking spot of the Cretan ships. There, one of the ships deployed on the Piraeus-Heraklion line was waiting for us: the KNOSSOS PALACE, flagship of Minoan Lines.

The KNOSSOS PALACE's bow, along with her name printed in an Ancient Greek font-a tradition for Minoan Lines ships.

On the other side we could see the Agios Nikolaos Church, which is the main church of the port. Bearing the name of the patron Saint (Saint Nicholas) of sailours and seamen, the church serves as the 'Temple of Greek Shipping'.

Next to the church was the ANDREAS KALVOS of Zante Ferries, which had just began service on the Western Cyclades, after 12 seasons on the Ionian Sea and after a major conversion in Keratsini and in Piraeus, which increased her vehicle capacity. However, the ship was not operating that day due to the problems of capital controls which impacted her company. As a result, for a few days, only her fleetmate, the ADAMANTIOS KORAIS, operated on the Western Cyclades.

The cruise ship THOMSON MAJESTY, owned by Greek cruise company Celestyal Cruises (formerly known as Louis Cruises), but chartered to British company Thomson Cruises. She is currently under charter to the latter until 2017.

On the other side was the cruise ship SPLENDOUR OF THE SEAS, owned by American cruise giants Royal Caribbean International.

The impressive bow of the KNOSSOS PALACE.

The ANDREAS KALVOS waiting impatiently for a return to service. It was also the first time I ever saw her in Piraeus, as I was used to seeing her during my stays in Zakynthos. I traveled with her once, back in 2012. For the 2015 season, she was deployed on the Piraeus-Kythnos-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos line.

On the left side of the ANDREAS KALVOS, I saw most of the ships operating on the Saronic Gulf. Just like the Zante Ferries ship, their companies also experienced issues with capital controls, which reduced the 17 daily crossings to Aegina, Agistri, Methana and Poros to just 5. Here we can see (from left to right) the bow of the POSIDON HELLAS (which had just been acquired by 2way Ferries), her new fleetmate, the ACHAEOS, their Saronic Ferries joint venture partner, the PHIVOS of Nova Ferries, and the IONIS of Ionis Ferries.

A luggage storage truck standing right next to the KNOSSOS PALACE. It depicts Minoan Lines' operations in Crete, on the Piraeus-Heraklion line, through a picture of the KNOSSOS PALACE, while also mentioning her sister ship and Heraklion partner, the FESTOS PALACE, labeling them as 'the most luxurious cruise ferries of Greece' in Greek.

Right behind the KNOSSOS PALACE was the KRITI II of ANEK Lines, which is also deployed on the Piraeus-Heraklion line.

The bow of the KRITI II. This was her first season on the Piraeus-Heraklion line since 2011.

The stern and the garage entrance area of the KNOSSOS PALACE.

The KRITI II seen resting in Piraeus. She has been owned by ANEK Lines since 1996, and has had spells on the Adriatic Sea (1997-2001and 2012-2013), on the Piraeus-Heraklion line (2002-2008, 2010-2011, and since 2015), on the Piraeus-Chios-Mytilene-Limnos-Thessaloniki line (2009) and on the Piraeus-Chania line (2014).

The ANDREAS KALVOS once again. It was also her first season bearing her company's name and website on her hull.

Another view at the Saronic ships. In the background (to the right) we can also see the catamaran FLYINGCAT 6 of Hellenic Seaways, which operates on the Piraeus-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line.

Another 'Flyingcat' seen in Piraeus, this time the FLYINGCAT 3, also owned by Hellenic Seaways. Unlike the FLYINGCAT 6, she was deployed on the Western Cyclades, on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Koufonisi line. Later in July and August she also operated on the Piraeus-Hydra-Spetses line.

The bow of the KRITI II.

The KRITI II seen again, with the ANDREAS KALVOS in the background.

Right behind the KRITI II was her sister ship, the KRITI I, which was deployed on the Piraeus-Chania line.

The funnel of the KRITI I. It displays the map of the island of Crete, the island of origin of ANEK Lines. The latter's name is mentioned right above the map. All ships that have operated for ANEK Lines since they began operations in 1967 have had these features on their funnels.

Another luggage and parcel storage truck-this time of ANEK Lines-placed behind the KRITI I.

The stern and the garage entrance of the KRITI I.

Next to the KRITI I was the laid-up PANAGIA TINOU of Ventouris Sea Lines. Just a few months after changing her name (she was previously known as the AGIOS GEORGIOS, from 2004 to 2015), she was arrested by her crew due to VSL's financial difficulties. She was due to be deployed on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line, but now she is awaiting her fate, which at age 43 (now 44) seems to be in a demolition yard.

Seeing all these ships was a pleasure as it marked my first interaction with the Greek coastal service for the 2015 season. Though some were laid-up because of the crisis, this did not prevent most of them to continue service over the following days and for the rest of the summer. I was grateful to see all ships earlier than usual once thanks once again to my grandmother and our taxi driver at the time.

#piraeus #summer2015 #greece #saronicgulf #aegean #diagoras #bluestarferries #athinap #athinaislines #knossospalace #minoanlines #andreaskalvos #zanteferries #posidonhellas #achaeos #2wayferries #phivos #novaferries #ionis #tyrogalasferries #ionisferries #kritiii #kritii #aneklines #flyingcat6 #flyingcat3 #hellenicseaways #panagiatinou #ventourissealines

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