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  • Writer's pictureAlexandros 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, as the PUNTA EUROPA for the Spanish company Isnasa (the brandname for Isleña de Navegación Sociedad Anónyma), based in Palma. She was one of four sister ships that were 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 (and its subsidiary Flebasa Lines) had to face extremely tough competitors in the region, such as Trasmediterránea, Umafisa and Iscomar. 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, as latter shit down operations along with Flebasa Lines, due to severe economic problems. She was therefore chartered to Spanish operator Euroferrys in 1998, for service on the Algeciras-Ceuta line. She therefore reunited with her sister ship, the BAHIA DE CEUTA, which was also transferred to Euroferrys, while the BAHIA DE MÁLAGA was sold to the newly-established company Baleària. The PUNTA EUROPA was then laid-up in 1999 in Algeciras, and she only returned to service under charter to Umafisa in 2000. The latter sought a ship to replace their ferry, the ISLA DE TAGOMAGO, which ran aground in Dénia in late 1999 and had to be sold for scrap after she was declared a constructive total loss. The PUNTA EUROPA was therefore deployed on the Dénia-Ibiza line on the Balearic Sea, under the Pitra brandname. After the high season, she was permanently laid-up in Algeciras in 2001, while awaiting for a new buyer. She was later joined by her sister ship, the BAHIA DE CEUTA, after her own service with Euroferrys ended. Both ships were initially bought in 2003 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 their 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, namely 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 ships 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 operating under the Nova Ferries brandname. 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 departure of the ATHINA, 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 2009 to Turkish company Kada Denizcilik 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 2012 in Turkey after a spell on the on the Trabzon-Sochi line on the Black Sea as the PRINCESS VICTORIA of Russian company Victoria Lines from 2005 to 2012.

Having covered the history of the PHIVOS and the impact of her operations on the Saronic Gulf, I will talk specifically about the trip that I did with her on 7 August 2015. It was my last trip in Greece 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, was the one that had the best passenger indoor areas for a day ferry in short services of the Greek coastal service, until the arrival of the FIOR DI LEVANTE of Levante Ferries in late 2014. Her conversion today is widely regarded as one of the best that have been made in Greece. As a tribute to her, I chose the username 'PHIVOS' for my accounts on the forums of and

We arrived in Aegina at 08:30, with the ship waiting for us in the port in order to make her first return of the day to the port of Piraeus.

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. The PHIVOS has three decks dedicated to the passengers. Deck 5 features most of the indoor lounge areas of the ship, while Deck 6 features an aft lounge area and the atrium that leads to the outdoor areas. Deck 7 is the upper deck which features an open outdoor deck. The reception desk features a poster encouraging passengers to head towards the forward section of Deck 5, where the Old Piraeus Lounge area is located.

A view of the main lounge area seen in Deck 5 on the PHIVOS, which resembles to that of a classic day ferry, especially that of a ferry operating on the Saronic Gulf.

Another view of the crowded main lounge area found in Deck 5 of the ship, which features several dark grey lounges, with some of them centered around small plastic tables linked to the floor.

A view of some chairs located in the aft section of the indoor passenger lounge area in Deck 5. These one are located next to the wall, which features three tiers with an original lighting design displaying different shades of blue.

Another view of the aft passenger lounge area in Deck 5, as well as the original wall with the tiers displaying different shades of blue lights. The area also features several TV screens.

The indoor passenger lounge area located towards the middle section of Deck 5, which continues to feature grey-blue lounges and seats.

While heading towards the front section of the ship in Deck 5, one can head to another indoor area called the Old Piraeus Lounge, whose design had been requested by Ioannis Lefakis' wife, Voula. It is themed after Piraeus, and displays various pictures of Greece's main port in the 19th century as well as in the early 20th century.

The starboard side alley of the Old Piraeus Lounge, which features comfortable white seats facing one another while being separated by small circular wooden tables. Next to the windows, small white chairs are assigned in quarters around small wooden rectangular tables.

The beautiful Old Piraeus Lounge area, which features several pink wooden chairs centered around white circular and rectangular tables. Heading more forward, there are several comfortable white lounges, again surrounding small wooden tables.

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

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

Another painting inside the Old Piraeus Lounge area, depicting Piraeus in the early 20th century, during a golden period in the history of the Greek coastal service. The painting shows many steamboats and a small shipyard in the same area that today harbours the E9, E10, E11 and E12 departure gates.

Next to the bar of the Old Piraeus Lounge area, one can find two frames attached to the wall, featuring miniature original maritime equipment (such as a ship's wheel, knots and anchors) and a miniature replica of an old sailing ship.

A view of the ship's safety instructions poster, which has instructions in both Greek and English. It also features the deckplan of the PHIVOS.

A small room next to the ship's atrium area leading to the outdoor areas of Deck 6. Just like the aft indoor lounge area seen in Deck 5, the walls in this room are also coloured in cyan and turquoise.

A view of the sun deck found in the stern section of Deck 6 (which gives access to the outdoor areas of the ship), where one can see the PHIVOS proudly carrying the Greek flag.

The outdoor alley on the port side of the ship, seen in Deck 6. It features a plastic white bench watching towards the sea, as well as a pile of white plastic chairs that passengers are able to take in order to seat comfortably when staying outdoors.

One of the many buoys of the ship found next to the bridge in Deck 6. This one mentions the ship's name and her Piraeus registry number.

A view of the ship's bridge, with a very quick look of the control room.

One of the two funnels of the ship, which are located in the open deck area in Deck 5. The impressive design of these two funnels is the same one she had during her time in Spain.

We departed the island and we were ready to reach Piraeus in less than one hour. There, we crossed the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN XVIII of Hellenic Seaways, which was heading towards the opposite direction. Built in 1984, she has been operating on the Saronic Gulf since 2005, when she was deployed on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line.

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 much slower than the latter. She has been operating on the Piraeus-Aegina line since 2001. Before that, she operated on the Sporades, on the Volos-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos-Pyli line as the PANAGIA SKIATHOU of the Northern Sporades and Evoia Shipping Company. She then moved to the Saronic Gulf two years later, being renamed AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS. In 2007 she was sold to ANES Ferries, which continued to operate her on the Saronic Gulf.

The AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS seen sailing on the Saronic Gulf, on her way to Aegina. Despite her slow speed, still fights well against fellow competitors. It was 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 seen heading to Aegina during the morning. She is the youngest ferry (as well as the youngest passenger ship in general) on the Saronic Gulf. This was her second consecutive summer on the Saronic Gulf, having been deployed on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri line in 2014. 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 on the Ionian Sea later during that year. She stayed there until 2013, while also having a stint on the Piombino-Elba line while being under charter to Italian company Blunavy from 2011 to 2012.

One last picture of the ACHAEOS, which I saw for the last time in 2015.

Making her first trip of the day as well, the small passenger boat 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 as the 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.

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, namely the IONIS of Ionis Ferries.

The IONIS seen leaving the port of Piraeus in order to head to Aegina. 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 2015. 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. She had a very successful first season, and left a very good impression on passengers of the Saronic Gulf. Before that, she had spent her entire career on the Ionian Sea, having been deployed there under Ionian Lines from 1977 to 1989, then under Seven Island Lines from 1989 to 1991, before being acquired by Tyrogalas Ferries in 1993, following a two-year-long lay-up. Between 1993 and 2014, she operated on the Kyllini-Zakynthos line and on the Kyllini-Kefalonia line.

As I bid farewell 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 most of my childhood, before selling the IONIAN STAR to Levante Ferries in 2015 (which renamed her MARE DI LEVANTE in early 2016) in 2015, and later the IONIS to the newly-established Leve Ferries in early 2016.

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 picture I ever took of the high speed ferry JET FERRY 1 of GA Ferries, which had been laid-up in Piraeus since 2008. 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 red-hulled ferry SUPERFAST XII, which was operating on the Piraeus-Syros-Amorgos-Patmos-Leros-Kos-Rhodes line. It was her debut season on the Cyclades and on the Dodecanese, after having previously operated on the Adriatic Sea (from 2002 to 2008 and from 2013 to 2014) and on the Piraeus-Heraklion line (from 2009 to 2012).

A view of the headquarters of the Ministry of Shipping and the Aegean, which was renamed the Ministry of Shipping and Insular Policy following the introduction of the second cabinet of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

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 headed towards our docking spot, we saw two kinds of ships docked the cruise terminal, namely the Mexican training sailing ship ARM CUAUHTÉMOC and the small cruise ship ATHENA of Grand Circle Travel Cruises.

Besides these two ships, I then saw the cruise ship CELESTYAL OLYMPIA of Celestyal Cruises, the only existing Greek cruise line 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, I saw the cruiseferry KNOSSOS PALACE of Minoan Lines. She is the flagship of Minoan Lines, and has been serving on the Piraeus-Heraklion line ever since her construction was completed in 2000.

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

Afterwards, I had the chance to have a look at the E3, E4 and E5 gates of Piraeus, where five ships could be seen docked. These were the BLUE HORIZON of Blue Star Ferries, 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 looking at the starboard side, I spotted the conventional ferry 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, previously the LEKFA ORI of ANEK Lines, operates on the Piraeus-Chania line since 2015, when she was transferred to Blue Star Ferries.

The two 'lifeline' ships of the Aegean Sea seen together in Piraeus. Indeedm 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 she had briefly replaced the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS on the Piraeus-Gytheion-Kalamata-Kythira-Antikythira-Kissamos lifeline, which had replaced the PREVELIS on the Kasos-Karpathos lifeline, due to the latter undergoing her annual refit. This service was, however, cut short in March 2015, due her company's severe financial difficulties. The ship's crew, which had not been paid for over 10 months, decided to go on strike, and the vessel was arrested and later seized by the Port Authority of Piraeus. Almost a year after this photo, the ferry would sadly capsize and partially 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.

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

I then saw the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN XXIX of Hellenic Seaways resting in Piraeus. Built in 1993, she has spent her entire career on the Saronic Gulf, having been deployed on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line.

While heading towards our docking spot in Piraeus, I spotted the conventional double-ended ferry POSIDON HELLAS of 2way Ferries, which cooperates with the PHIVOS under the Saronic Ferries joint venture.

The modern and luxurious KNOSSOS PALACE seen in Piraeus, in what was her fifteenth summer on the Piraeus-Heraklion line.

The beautiful POSIDON HELLAS seen in Piraeus during her first season under 2way Ferries, whom she joined in 2015 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, during her first summer on the Western Cyclades.

I then saw the small passenger boat BOB SFOUGKARAKIS of Kavouris Shipping Company departing the port of Piraeus in order to head towards Salamina, as she also operated on the Piraeus-Salamina line, just like the GEORGIOS BROUFAS II. 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.

I then saw the other high speed catamaran of Hellenic Seaways operating on the Saronic Gulf, namely the veteran FLYINGCAT 1, resting in Piraeus. Just like the FLYINGCAT 6, she was operating on the Piraeus-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line.

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). This was due to having the chance to travel to two new islands, namely Santorini and Thirassia, and also seeing ferries that were reactivated in 2015, after having been laid-up for many years or under charter to foreign operators due to the effects of the Greek financial crisis. Even as the country continued to struggle in 2015, the Greek coastal service prevailed, and many companies made successful deployments for their ships on the Aegean Sea. Overall, the landscape of the Greek ferry industry changed dramatically, but it was a nice experience that enabled to see and photograph multiple ships. And, as usual, traveling with the PHIVOS is always meaningful. She features impressive areas which make her stand out compared to the other ships of the Saronic Gulf. I cannot wait to travel with her again, as I am due to return to Greece for the 2016 summer season, which is certainly planned to be very promising.

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