• Alexandros Vrailas

PHIVOS Tribute and Moments of Trip

Trip: 7 August 2015. From Aegina to Piraeus, with the PHIVOS of Nova Ferries.

The conventional ferry PHIVOS was built in Spain in 1980 for Spanish company Isnasa. She was one of four sister ships which were all built for service on the Gibraltar Strait and on the Balearic Islands. The names of that quartet were PUNTA EUROPA, BAHIA DE CEUTA, BAHIA DE MÁLAGA and BAHIA DE CÁDIZ. The latter was sold in 1984 to competitor Trasmediterránea, but the former three operated together for almost 15 years on the Algeciras-Tangier Med line, before Isnasa had to face extremely tough competitors in the region, such as Trasmediterránea, Umafisa, Flebasa Lines, along with the rapidly-emerging Baleària. As a result, the company was forced to transfer the BAHIA DE MÁLAGA and the BAHIA DE CEUTA to Flebasa Lines in 1994. The PUNTA EUROPA remained as the only ferry, before she herself had to depart Isnasa in 1998 due to the latter's severe economic problems. She was therefore chartered in 1998 to Euroferrys for service on the Algeciras-Ceuta line. She reunited with her sister ship BAHIA DE CEUTA which was also transferred to Euroferrys from the similarly-troubled Flebasa Lines, while the BAHIA DE MÁLAGA was sold to Baleària. The PUNTA EUROPA was then laid-up in 1999 in Algeciras, and she only returned to service under charter to Umafisa in 2000, who deployed her on the Dénia-Ibiza line. After the high season she returned under charter to Euroferrys, where she remained until 2003, when she was permanently laid-up in Algeciras, awaiting a new buyer. She was later joined by her sister ship, the BAHIA DE CEUTA. Both ships were initially bought by Italian company TRIS Traghetti Isole Sarde and were both towed to Genoa, and were scheduled to operate on the Piombino-Elba line. However, due to economic problems and permits denied by the Italian Ministry of Shipping, the two ferries never underwent conversion, and the plans to operate the two ships were abandoned after TRIS was taken over by the company Enermar. The two ships were therefore laid-up in Genoa for a year, until they were bought by newly-established Greek company Nova Ferries in 2004.

This company was formed under the co-ownership of the Agapitos family and the Lefakis family. The first family, led by Kostas Agapitos, previously operated the company Agapitos Express Ferries on the Cyclades until it was taken over by Minoan Flying Dolphins in 1999. It also began to operate the company Aegean Cargo, which was composed of Ro-Ro carriers operating from Piraeus to Crete and on the Northeast Aegean Sea. The second family had operated two ships on the Saronic Gulf since 1981, the SARONIKOS (now the GRAMVOUSA of Cretan Daily Cruises) and the EFTYCHIA (now the SYMI of Sea Dreams), before their ferries ended up being also taken over by Minoan Flying Dolphins (which became Hellas Flying Dolphins in 2002) in 1999. Following the restructuring of that company under the name Hellenic Seaways in 2005, the two families decided to return to Greek coastal service operations by buying the two laid-up Spanish ferries. The two were towed to Greece in late 2004 and underwent an extensive conversion in Drapetsona. Due to co-ownership issues, it was decided that one of the two ships would be owned by Agapitos and the other one by Lefakis, and that both ships would be branded under the name of Nova Ferries. Therefore, the BAHIA DE CEUTA was taken by Agapitos and was renamed ATHINA, while the PUNTA EUROPA was purchased by Lefakis and was renamed PHIVOS. Both ships were named after the mascots of the 2004 Summer Olympic Games which had been held in Athens.

They both entered service on the Piraeus-Aegina-Methana-Poros-Hydra line in 2005, while the ATHINA also made a few additional trips to Spetses in August. However, the co-ownership with Agapitos did not last, and, despite rumours that Lefakis would also include her in his fleet, the ATHINA was sold in 2006 to Portuguese company Transmaçor, which is based on the Azores Archipelago. The Nova Ferries joint venture was therefore fully taken over by Lefakis, with the PHIVOS being the lone ship of the company. She was deployed exclusively on the Piraeus-Aegina line in 2007, before returning to the Piraeus-Aegina-Methana-Poros line in 2014 when Nova Ferries joined the newly-established Saronic Ferries joint venture, which was formed along with competitors Hellenic Seaways and 2way Ferries. Since the ATHINA's departure, Nova Ferries had also bought the ship THASSOS VIII from ANETH Ferries in 2009 and renamed her PHEDRA, but sold her after the 2010 season to Egyptian-Jordanian company Arab Bridge Maritime, leaving the PHIVOS again as the only ship of the company. However, Nova Ferries has constantly been looking for a new ship, while also considering the fact that the PHIVOS is slowly aging.

Today, the PHIVOS is the most acclaimed ship on the Saronic Gulf, despite her being the oldest ferry for many years (until the arrival of the IONIS of Tyrogalas Ferries-but now operating under Leve Ferries-in 2015, which is three years older than her). She is mostly known for her speed (she is the fastest conventional ferry in the region) and her large open deck areas, as well as for her unique indoor areas, most notably the Old Piraeus Lounge, which I will talk about later. She is now operating for the Saronic Ferries joint venture, along with two former competitors, the POSIDON HELLAS and the ACHAEOS of 2way Ferries. As for her sister ships, her former Nova Ferries fleetmate ATHINA had an unsuccessful spell on the Azores Archipelago as the ILHA AZUL, and she was sold in 2011 to Cape Verdean company Diallo & Macedo, being renamed NOSSA SENHORA DA GRAÇA, but she has been inactive since 2012. The BAHIA DE MÁLAGA was sold by Baleària in 2008 to Turkish company Med Dream and she was renamed MED DREAM. She has since been operating between Cyprus and Turkey on the Kyrenia-Taşucu line, remaining there even after she was sold 2014 to company Akgünler Denizcilík, and currently operates under the name LADY SU. The BAHIA DE CÁDIZ was the first ship of the quartet to be scrapped, as she was demolished in 2011 in Turkey after a spell on the Black Sea as the PRINCESS VICTORIA from 2005 to 2011.

With the history of the ship now revealed, I will talk specifically about my trip. It was my last for the 2015 season, as I was leaving Aegina for Athens in order to take the plane back to New York City. It was the second time that I took the PHIVOS that season, as I had previously traveled with her during my one-day trip to Aegina earlier in the summer. This feat was also performed in 2010 and 2012, and I had also taken the PHIVOS four times (a record) in 2007. She is definitely my favourite ship on the Saronic Gulf, ever since her arrival in 2005. I remember the first time I saw her, ten years ago, as she was docked in Aegina, upon my arrival with the AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS of ANES Ferries (then owned by the Northern Sporades and Evoia Shipping Company). Her distinctive red hull and her imposing appearance impressed me, but traveling with her made it even more unique. She is by far the most reliable ship in the region, and, in my opinion, the one that had the best indoor areas for a day ferry in all of Greece until the arrival of the FIOR DI LEVANTE of Levante Ferries in 2014. Her conversion today is widely regarded as one of the best that have been made in the country. As a tribute to her, I chose the username 'PHIVOS' for my accounts on the forums of Arxipelagos.gr and Nautilia.gr.

Crossing the PHIVOS on the Saronic Gulf two weeks before the trip, on our way to Aegina.

The PHIVOS waiting for us early in the morning, shortly before her departure.

The beautiful PHIVOS. The 'IΛ' sign (the second letter is the lambda, the Greek version of the 'L') on her funnel refers to the initials of her owner, Ioannis Lefakis.

Right upon boarding, we went through the escalators and reached the ship's reception desk. She has two passenger decks, with the second one giving access to the outdoor areas.

The crowded main lounge of the ship, which resembles to that of a classic day ferry, especially a ferry operating on the Saronic Gulf.

Another view of the crowded main lounge area of the ship, which resembles to that of a classic day ferry, especially a ferry operating on the Saronic Gulf.

The passenger seats on the lower deck, which are further decorated with an original lighting design on the wall displaying different shades of blue.

Another view of the passenger area on the lower deck, as well as the stylish wall with the different shades of blue lights. The area also features several TV screens.

The passenger lounge area of the ship.

The lounge area then leads to a small cafeteria called the Old Piraeus Lounge, a feature which had been requested by Ioannis Lefakis' wife, Voula, and that displays various pictures of Greece's main port in the 19th century as well as in the early 20th century.

The Old Piraeus Lounge alley.

The beautiful Old Piraeus Lounge area, which has enough tables and chairs to accommodate many passengers.

The entrance poster, which displays the lounge's name in Greek, as well as a picture of Piraeus from approximately 125 years ago.

A beautiful picture representing the railway station of Piraeus during the 1910s.

An original maritime collection featuring knots and small models of sailing ships.

The ship's deckplan, which has instructions in both Greek and English.

Another picture inside the Old Piraeus Lounge, depicting Piraeus during a golden period in the history of Greek coastal service, with many steamboats and a small shipyard on what is today the area that has the E9, E10, E11 and E12 departure gates.

A small room leading to the outdoor areas of the ship. Just like the indoor area, the walls are also coloured in cyan and turquoise.

A view of the upper passenger deck (which gives access to the outdoor areas of the ship) from the stern, proudly carrying the Greek flag.

The outdoor alley on the port side of the ship, seen in the upper deck.

One of the many buoys of the ship found next to the bridge. This one mentions the PHIVOS' name and her Piraeus registry number.

One of the two funnels of the ship. The impressive design of these two funnels is the same one she had during her Spanish career.

We departed the island and we were ready to reach Piraeus in less than one hour. There, we crossed one of the three Hellenic Seaways hydrofoils, the FLYING DOLPHIN XVIII, which was going in the opposite direction.

Soon after we crossed another ship going to Aegina. It was the AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS of ANES Ferries, which was also making her first trip of the day.

The AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS was slowly continuing her journey towards her namesake island. Though she is 19 years younger than the PHIVOS, she is 5 knots slower than her, and she makes the same trip in about 30 minutes longer than the Nova Ferries ship.

Despite her low speed, the ship still fights well against fellow competitors. It was however sad to see her for the last time that year, but she will be waiting for us this year for sure.

We then crossed the double-ended ferry ACHAEOS of 2way Ferries, as she was also making her first trip to Aegina and Agistri.

The ACHAEOS is the youngest ferry (as well as the youngest passenger ship in general) on the Saronic Gulf. This was her second summer in a row on the Saronic Gulf, on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri line. She had also operated on the Piraeus-Aegina line during the first year of her career back in 2006, before she moved to the Igoumenitsa-Corfu line after that year's summer season.

Seeing the ACHAEOS for the last time in 2015.

Making her first trip of the day as well, the ALEXANDROS of my WAYS is seen heading towards the ports of Souvala and Agia Marina in Northern Aegina. It would be her only season for my WAYS, as she has recently been sold to Evoïkos Lines in order to continue her service under the name AGIA MARINA AEGINIS. It was therefore the last time I saw her under the name she had been sharing with me for the first 15 years of her career.

The ship's bridge, with a very small detail of the control room.

In less than an hour we had already reached the piers of the port of Piraeus. There, we saw another ferry operating on the Saronic Gulf, the IONIS of Ionis Ferries.

The IONIS leaving the port of Piraeus for her second trip to the Saronic Gulf. I had previously seen her (as well as traveled with her) on the Ionian Sea, before she was transferred to the Aegean Sea as part of her company's strategic redeployment. In her first season there, she served the Piraeus-Aegina-Methana-Poros line.

The beautiful IONIS, which is only three years older than the PHIVOS, had a very successful first season, mainly due to the fact that she carried her Ionian Sea success to Piraeus.

As I made a farewell sign to the ship, little did I know that it would be the last time I would ever see the logo of Tyrogalas Ferries on her funnels. Indeed, the ferry was sold in 2016 to Leve Ferries, which has kept her on the Saronic Gulf on the Piraeus-Aegina line. Therefore, this picture was my last one featuring the historical company, which had been present in Zakynthos for 43 years and for my entire life, before selling the flagship IONIAN STAR to Levante Ferries in 2015 (becoming the MARE DI LEVANTE in early 2016), and later the IONIS to the newly-established Leve Ferries.

Inside the port, we found the cruise ship CELEBRITY REFLECTION of Celebrity Cruises, a company that has Greek origins, as it was previously owned by the historical Chandris family.

Another historical photo: the last one I ever took of that specific ship, the miserable and abandoned JET FERRY 1 of GA Ferries. I knew that she would soon leave the main port and go to Elefsina, but I then found out that she had been sold for scrap to Turkey in early 2016. I made sure to wave her a final farewell sign, as I therefore knew that it would be the last time I would ever see her with my own eyes.

Beside the JET FERRY 1 was the flagship of Superfast Ferries, the SUPERFAST XII, which was preparing to depart for the Cyclades and the Dodecanese.

The CELEBRITY REFLECTION seen in Piraeus.

The red-hulled ferry SUPERFAST XII, which was operating on the Piraeus-Syros-Amorgos-Patmos-Leros-Kos-Rhodes line. It was her debut season under this service.

The building of the Ministry of Shipping and the Aegean, shortly before it became the Ministry of Shipping and Island Policy.

The beautiful SUPERFAST XII seen resting in Piraeus. She has been the flagship of Superfast Ferries since she was delivered to them in 2002.

As we moved on, we saw three kinds of ships near the cruise terminal: a tug boat, the Mexican training sailing ship ARM CUAUHTÉMOC and the small cruise ship ATHENA of Grand Circle Travel Cruises.

And beside them was the cruise ship CELESTYAL OLYMPIA of Celestyal Cruises, the only Greek cruise line to be active as of today.

While we were ready to dock, we saw the small passenger boat GEORGIOS BROUFAS II of Broufas Vessels, which operates on the Piraeus-Salamina line.

Upon reaching the docking spots of the Cretan ships, the KNOSSOS PALACE of Minoan Lines was waiting for us. She is Minoan Lines' flagship, and has been serving on the Piraeus-Heraklion line ever since her construction was completed in 2000.

The two cruise ships owned by Celestyal Cruises: the CELESTYAL CRYSTAL on the left and the CELESTYAL OLYMPIA on the right.

A group of five completely different ships in the E3, E4 and E5 gates (From left to right): The BLUE HORIZON and the BLUE GALAXY of Blue Star Ferries, the PANAGIA TINOU of Ventouris Sea Lines, the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS of LANE Sea Lines and the PREVELIS of ANEK Lines.

While, on the other side, on the E9 gate, there was only the ANDREAS KALVOS of Zante Ferries. Just like the IONIS, this ship also transferred to the Aegean Sea in 2015 after she had spent all her previous seasons under Zante Ferries on the Ionian Sea, from 2003 to 2014.

The BLUE HORIZON seen resting in Piraeus. She has been operating on the Piraeus-Heraklion line since 2014.

The BLUE GALAXY, on the other hand, operates on the Piraeus-Chania line since 2015, when she was transferred from ANEK Lines to Blue Star Ferries.

The two 'lifeline' ships: the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS operates on the Piraeus-Gytheion-Kalamata-Kythira-Antikythira-Kissamos lifeline, while the PREVELIS operates on the lifeline that connects Piraeus with the islands of Kasos and Karpathos, more specifically the Piraeus-Milos-Santorini-Anafi-Heraklion-Siteia-Kasos-Karpathos-Chalki-Rhodes line. A true pair of historical ferries.

And they are joined by another historical ferry, but which has been suffering since early 2015. The legendary PANAGIA TINOU, formerly known as AGIOS GEORGIOS (2004-2015), has been laid-up in the E5 gate since her replacement service on the Kythira lifeline was cut short due her company's severe financial difficulties. The ship's crew, which had not been paid for over 10 months, decided to arrest her. Almost a year after this photo, the ferry would sadly capsize and partiallly sink in the port. So this picture could potentially be my last one of that specific ship.

At the same time, one of the two catamarans of Hellenic Seaways on the Saronic Gulf, the FLYINGCAT 6, departs for the island of Poros. She operates on the Piraeus-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line.

The ANDREAS KALVOS, which spent her debut season on the Western Cyclades, being deployed on the Piraeus-Kythnos-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos line.

Another Hellenic Seaways hydrofoil, the FLYING DOLPHIN XXIX, is seen resting in Piraeus.

Along with the POSIDON HELLAS of 2way Ferries, one of the PHIVOS' cooperators under the Saronic Ferries joint venture.

The modern and luxurious KNOSSOS PALACE seen in Piraeus.

The beautiful POSIDON HELLAS during her first season for 2way Ferries, after having spent ten years with Hellenic Seaways. She serves all ports operated by the Saronic Ferries joint venture, as she is on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri-Methana-Poros line.

Another picture of the BLUE HORIZON, during her second season on the Piraeus-Heraklion, and third overall while serving Crete, as she was on the Piraeus-Chania line during the 2010 season.

And another picture of the BLUE GALAXY, previously known as the LEFKA ORI of ANEK Lines. Under them, she operated on the Adriatic Sea, on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Trieste line (2000-2004) and on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Venice line (2005-2011), alongside her sister ship, the SOPHOCLES V (now operating as the KYDON, also on the Piraeus-Chania line). Both ships were inactive from 2012 to 2014 due to a failed charter to South Korean company Jeju Cruise Line, but they were eventually reactivated in order to resume service in Crete in 2015.

Another picture of the ANDREAS KALVOS.

The small passenger boat BOB SFOUGKARAKIS of Kavouris Shipping Company follows the GEORGIOS BROUFAS II and heads towards Salamina, as she also operated on the Piraeus-Salamina line. Since 2016, she has been serving the Perama-Salamina line.

The impressive bow of the POSIDON HELLAS, which has spent her entire career on the Saronic Gulf ever since she was built in 1998.

The FLYING DOLPHIN XXIX, which has also spent her entire career on the Saronic Gulf since being delivered to Ceres Flying Dolphins in 1993. After going through the ownerships of Minoan Flying Dolphins (1999-2002) and Hellas Flying Dolphins (2002-2005), she has since been operating for their successor, Hellenic Seaways. She is currently the youngest active hydrofoil in the Greek coastal service.

The other catamaran of Hellenic Seaways operating on the Saronic Gulf, the veteran FLYINGCAT 1, resting in Piraeus. She also operates on the Piraeus-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line.

A final picture of the PHIVOS, taken exactly one month before my trip with her.

There was no doubt about it: this trip was rather emotional than adventurous, as it would be the last time that I would see some ships in Greece, as well as some ships under their previous liveries prior to ownership changes in 2016. But making a final trip for 2015 with my favourite ferry was the ideal way to end a spectacular summer in which I saw so many ships that I had never seen previously (as well as seeing many of them for the first time in several years), along with new islands and new operations.

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