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  • Alexandros Vrailas

Piraeus Visit on 1 July 2015

Just one day after my first visit to the port of Piraeus, on 30 June 2015, I again went there with my father in order to buy the tickets for our Cyclades trips for the 2015 season. It was for our trip with the BLUE STAR PATMOS of Blue Star Ferries from Piraeus to Santorini on 7-8 July 2015 and with the CHAMPION JET 1 of Sea Jets from Santorini back to Piraeus on 12 July 2015. Since we were going to the companies' ticket agencies located in the port, my father thought it was a chance for me to see the port's ships and take pictures of them. This post is dedicated to him, for making that day very special and for giving me the chance to enjoy my passions. We bought the tickets for the trip with the BLUE STAR PATMOS next to the E6 gate, where the company's ships leave for one their main destinations: the Cyclades. After exiting the agency, we went to see the ships located next to that area.

The first ship in sight was one that I had seen the previous day, the laid-up PANAGIA TINOU of Ventouris Sea Lines, once known as the great APOLLON EXPRESS 2 (also of Ventouris Sea Lines), then known as PANAGIA EKATONTAPYLIANI (for Agapitos Lines and later for Minoan Flying Dolphins/Hellas Flying Dolphins), and as the AGIOS GEORGIOS (also for Ventouris Sea Lines). She was renamed in early 2015 in order to begin service on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line, but her company's financial difficulties led to her arrest in the E4 gate, while she had been operating on the Kythira lifeline (spent on the Piraeus-Gytheion-Kythira-Antikythira-Kissamos line) in replacement of the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS of LANE Sea Lines which was undergoing her annual refit.

Next to her was a ship that I saw for the first time since 2006, the year during which I traveled with her. However, she was on a different line and had a different name and a different operator. Back then, she was the great LEFKA ORI of ANEK Lines operating on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Venice line. This time, I saw her as the BLUE GALAXY of Blue Star Ferries, in service on the Piraeus-Chania line, in her first season in Greece since arriving from her failed charter to Korean company Jeju Cruise Line in 2012. It was obviously a true excitement to see this ship again.

Right in front of the BLUE GALAXY was the other Blue Star Ferries ship operating in Crete, the BLUE HORIZON, which is deployed on the Piraeus-Heraklion line. Both Japanese-built ships and former Adriatic Sea greats were operating to Crete under the ANEK-Attica Group joint venture.

Further South was the E3 gate, featuring one of the two competitors of BLUE HORIZON, the FESTOS PALACE of Minoan Lines, which also operates on the Piraeus-Heraklion line.

Once a legend, always a legend, despite being laid-up. The PANAGIA TINOU awaits her fate in Piraeus.

The two Blue Star Ferries ships operating in Crete, the BLUE HORIZON and the BLUE GALAXY, seen together in Piraeus.

The BLUE GALAXY and the PANAGIA TINOU, the former being 20 years younger than the latter. She was built in the same year during which the PANAGIA TINOU first arrived in Greece, 1992. At the time, she had been bought by GA Ferries and began operations for them as the ROMILDA until 1993, when she began her first stint under Ventouris Sea Lines as the APOLLON EXPRESS 2.

The BLUE HORIZON and the BLUE GALAXY seen once again. They actually also used to be fleetmates back when they operated in Japan, as they were both owned by Higashi Nihon Ferry. During the 2000s, both ships were prominent competitors on the Adriatic Sea, until they began to have some misfortunes in the early 2010s, due to their operators wanting to get rid of them. In 2012, both of them had their worst year in Greece so far, as the BLUE HORIZON was out of Blue Star Ferries' plans and was laid-up in Syros, while the BLUE GALAXY, then known as the LEFKA ORI, was chartered by ANEK Lines to Korean company Jeju Cruise Line. This charter turned out to be very turbulent and she never entered service in Korea. Fortunately, in 2013, the BLUE HORIZON was reactivated by Blue Star Ferries on the Piraeus-Santorini-Kos-Rhodes line, while the LEFKA ORI returned to Greece, and was transferred to Blue Star Ferries in late 2014. Beginning with 2015, and after having been reunited once again under the same company, it appears that both ships have now found a permanent role in the Greek coastal service once again, this time by connecting Piraeus with Crete.

While I was observing the BLUE GALAXY and the BLUE HORIZON, I saw another Blue Star Ferries ship which had just entered the port and was ready to dock. It was the BLUE STAR PATMOS, the youngest member of the fleet, as I managed to see her for the first time in my life after failing to do so from 2012 to 2014.

The great FESTOS PALACE resting in the E2 gate. She has been on the Piraeus-Heraklion line since 2001, the year during which she was built.

The BLUE HORIZON resting in Piraeus, with the bow of BLUE GALAXY right behind her. She moved to the Piraeus-Heraklion line in 2014, following her successful stint on the Piraeus-Santorini-Kos-Rhodes line in 2013.

The BLUE GALAXY and the PANAGIA TINOU seen once again.

The BLUE STAR PATMOS ready to pass by the FESTOS PALACE in order to dock in the E7 gate.

The incredible BLUE GALAXY seen again. It was nice to see her again after almost 9 years, the last time having been when I traveled with her from Patras to Venice in 2006.

The BLUE STAR PATMOS ready to dock. Not only I was excited just by seeing her for the first time, but I also found myself traveling onboard her six days later. That season, she operated on the Cyclades for the first time, on the Piraeus-Syros-Paros-Naxos-Donousa-Amorgos-Ios-Santorini-Anafi-Astypalaia line.

The BLUE STAR PATMOS heading towards her docking spot in Piraeus.

The BLUE STAR PATMOS is simply an extremely beautiful and very modern ship. She is seen here preparing to maneuver in Piraeus, after having arrived from the Cyclades.

The BLUE STAR PATMOS entering the E7 gate, during her first summer operating on the Cyclades along with her sister ship, the BLUE STAR DELOS (which has been operating there since she was built in 2011).

The BLUE STAR PATMOS preparing to maneuver in the E7 gate in Piraeus.

The BLUE HORIZON seen once again.

The FESTOS PALACE resting in Piraeus.

The BLUE HORIZON and the BLUE GALAXY together in Piraeus.

Another view of the BLUE GALAXY and of the PANAGIA TINOU.

Even further South I saw one of the main ferries of Hellenic Seaways, the ARIADNE, which was operating on the Piraeus-Samos-Chios-Mytilene-Limnos-Kavala line.

On the other side of the E7 gate was another Hellenic Seaways ship, though this time it was a high speed craft: the FLYINGCAT 3 (which I had also seen the previous day).

Through the E7 gate, we could see the E9 gate, where Sea Jets-owned ships and ferries operating on the Western Cyclades depart. So it was no surprise to us that we saw a ferry operating on the Western Cyclades line, namely the ANDREAS KALVOS of Zante Ferries. She was also a ship which I saw the previous day, and she was still docked due to the same problems concerning her company and the capital controls.

The FLYINGCAT 3, also operating on the Western Cyclades, was preparing to depart for her first stop, Serifos.

The FLYINGCAT 3 from a closer view, with the emphasis on the Cosmote logo, present in all Hellenic Seaways high speed craft as a part of a sponsorship deal, which began in 2013. Before that, the Hellenic Seaways high speed craft had been sponsored by rival company Vodafone, with that partnership having existed even when the company was known as Hellas Flying Dolphins (2002-2005).

The bow of FLYINGCAT 3. In 2015 she was operating on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Koufonisi line. Moreover, in July and August, she made additional trips on the Saronic Gulf, on the Piraeus-Hydra-Spetses line, providing extra service for her company there.

So this is how the bottom part of a catamaran looks like! A view of the bottom of the hull of the FLYINGCAT 3.

After buying the tickets for the BLUE STAR PATMOS trip, we then had to buy those for the CHAMPION JET 1. This required us to head to the Sea Jets ticket agency, which is located in the E9 gate. This meant that we had to walk around the E8 gate, which is the departure gate for ships I know very well: the ones operating on the Saronic Gulf. The first one I saw was the IONIS of Ionis Ferries. 2015 was her first season on the Saronic Gulf, and was spent on the Piraeus-Aegina-Methana-Poros line. She became the first ship I ever saw in my life to have operated on both islands I go to every summer, these being Zakynthos (where she had been operating from 1993 to 2015) and Aegina (since 2015).

The starboard side funnel of the IONIS, which features the well-known Tyrogalas Ferries logo. The ship belonged to the latter, while the Ionis Ferries brandname was used for the first time in 2015 when the ship transferred from the Ionian Sea to the Saronic Gulf.

Another ferry operating on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri line, the ACHAEOS of 2way Ferries, seen during her second straight season (and third overall) on the Saronic Gulf. I traveled to and from Aegina on both occasions with her in 2014.

Next to her was a longtime Saronic Gulf favourite, namely the PHIVOS of Nova Ferries. I also saw this ship the previous day, and two days later I was onboard her in order to go to Aegina in order to prepare for my summer vacation.

Between the ACHAEOS and the PHIVOS, I saw the high speed craft MASTER JET which was ready to maneuver in the E9 gate. Incredibly, she became the first-ever Sea Jets ship that I saw in my life.

The small passenger boat ELENA F of Elena F Shipping, which operates on the Piraeus-Salamina line.

In the corner of the E8 gate is the departure point of the hydrofoils that operate on the Saronic Gulf. There, I saw the FLYING DOLPHIN XXIX and the FLYING DOLPHIN XVIII (both owned by Hellenic Seaways), and the FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA of Aegean Flying Dolphins.

Another ship operating on the Piraeus-Salamina line: the GEORGIOS BROUFAS II of Broufas Vessels.

The FLYING DOLPHIN XVIII departing Piraeus for Aegina. Built in 1984, she began her career on the Sporades under Ceres Flying Dolphins, and spent 21 years there. After also operating there under Minoan Flying Dolphins and later Hellas Flying Dolphins, she was deployed on the Saronic Gulf in 2005, being inserted on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line.

The FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA, which was the hydrofoil I traveled with two days later on my return to Piraeus from Aegina. Owned by Aegean Flying Dolphins since 2010, she has been operating on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri line since 2011.

The MASTER JET docking in Piraeus. It was her last day in operation (for now) on the Piraeus-Sifnos-Milos-Folegandros-Ios-Santorini line, since the following day she was replaced by the CHAMPION JET 1 as she herself was being replaced by the CHAMPION JET 2 on the Piraeus-Mykonos-Naxos-Santorini line. The latter had her first day of service in the Greek coastal service the following day.

The FLYINGCAT 3, in the meantime, is seen leaving Piraeus for the Western Cyclades (Serifos, Sifnos and Koufonisi, though the latter is part of the Lesser Cyclades).

The MASTER JET docking in the E9 gate. She has been operating for Sea Jets since 2011. The previous summer, she had operated successfully on the Piraeus-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos-Ios-Santorini line.

The FLYING DOLPHIN XVIII seen leaving Piraeus as well.

The GEORGIOS BROUFAS II also leaving for her sole destination, Salamina (serving the ports of Kamatero and Paloukia).

Two ships leaving Piraeus (the FLYING DOLPHIN XVIII and the GEORGIOS BROUFAS II) and one docking (the MASTER JET), while the other three (the ANDREAS KALVOS, the FESTOS PALACE and the PHIVOS) are already docked.

The FLYING DOLPHIN XVIII seen departing Piraeus, whereas the MASTER JET is seen docking in the E9 gate.

The MASTER JET docking, while the GEORGIOS BROUFAS II and the FLYINGCAT 3 are leaving.

While the FLYING DOLPHIN XVIII left, her sister ship, the FLYING DOLPHIN XVII, which had just arrived from Aegina, was ready to dock in her place.

The great PHIVOS of Nova Ferries seen in Piraeus. She has been operating on the Saronic Gulf since 2005, and since 2014 she has been serving the Piraeus-Aegina-Methana-Poros line, after the Saronic Ferries joint venture (which includes Nova Ferries, 2way Ferries and Hellenic Seaways) was established.

The MASTER JET seen docking in Piraeus. After her service was taken over by the CHAMPION JET 1, she spent a month on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Koufoni-Amorgos line, which was the line on which the newly-acquired PAROS JET was due to operate during the summer, but delays during her conversion meant that she was only ready to operate in August. Therefore, the MASTER JET spent a significant part of the summer season on that line.

The FLYING DOLPHIN XVII and her crew ready to undergo their docking procedure in Piraeus.

The PHIVOS, the FESTOS PALACE, and the ELENA F and the FLYING DOLPHIN XXIX all seen resting in Piraeus.

Seeing all these ships was a pleasure in my second straight interaction with the Greek coastal service ships for the 2015 season. Seeing familiar faces, as the vessels on which I eventually ended up traveling with with over the following days was truly a great experience. I was grateful to see all ships earlier than usual thanks, once again, to my father and his wish in letting me see my passion from a closer view.

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