• Alexandros Vrailas

The New Kyllini Port

Between my previous blog post dedicated to the Peloponnesian port of Kyllini published eight months ago and my first visit of the port for the 2016 summer season five months ago, there were many changes regarding the area's infrastructure. There were so many that the port, which is one of the most important ones on the Ionian Sea as it provides the connection of the islands of Zakynthos and Kefalonia (and occasionally Ithaca) with mainland Greece, had a completely different image than it did in July 2015, back when I took the pictures that were presented in my subsequent blog post published in April 2016.

The main change which affected Kyllini's overall picture is the fact that new ticket agencies were introduced at the entrance of the port, replacing the kiosks that I had showed you in my previous blog post, which were located right next to the ferry dock. These kiosks had been in the port at least since the first time I remembered having contact with the Greek coastal service, back in 2003. So this year marked the first time that I saw new agencies in Kyllini. The old ones have now been demolished, without leaving any remains. However, the new ticket agencies are much bigger and much more modern, while also providing more ticket offices than the old ones. There were two tenants for these agencies: the Ionian Group joint venture (established in 2015) and the company Kefalonian Lines (established in 2013). The two competitors had their ticket offices right next to each other, which offers passengers a better way to make a decision between the two Ionian Sea operators. Overall, I was pleased with the port's new features, as the agencies were much more colourful and stylish compared to the old and basic kiosks. My only concern was that the agencies were right next to the port's entrances, therefore increasing car and truck traffic in the area. I personally think that the port's new infrastructure was made in order to better accommodate customers regarding the selection of the operator that would bring them to either Kefalonia or Zakynthos. Indeed, Ionian Group, which is the joint venture between Zakynthos-based companies Levante Ferries and Zante Ferries, was formed in the middle of the summer of 2015, replacing the Ionian Ferries joint venture which had included Zante Ferries and Tyrogalas Ferries, following Levante Ferries' (who were having their first summer in the Greek coastal service then) acquisition of the latter's flagship, the IONIAN STAR. With only two competitors remaining (Ionian Group and Kefalonian Lines) in Kyllini, both with modern and reliable ferries, I think it was a good idea to create these new ticket agencies.

The Eastern part of the new port agency, which is the area entirely dedicated to Ionian Group and its two companies, Levante Ferries (established in 2012) and Zante Ferries (established in 1991). As Levante Ferries has more control in the joint venture (more ships and more awards than Zante Ferries), their area is painted in the latter's main colours, which are yellow and black. Flags promoting the tickets are also present, with them featuring yellow and black as well.

In the back of the agency (and technically at the port's vehicle entrance), a banner promoting Ionian Group (but in this case it looks more like it is promoting Levante Ferries) is showing the two most recent ships having entered operations on the Ionian Sea. The first is Levante Ferries' first ferry, the flagship FIOR DI LEVANTE, which began operating two years ago. After a spectacular conversion in China, the ship has since been the most acclaimed ferry on the Ionian Sea thanks to her supermodern and impressive indoor and outdoor areas. She was so successful that she managed to remove two ships from the area (the IONIS-then operating for Tyrogalas Ferries-and the ANDREAS KALVOS of Zante Ferries, which were transferred to the Aegean Sea) and subsequently a traditional company which had been operating for 42 years (following the sale of the IONIAN STAR by Tyrogalas Ferries). But the success did not only stop there: in the spring of 2016, the ship was given the 'The Best Ferry in the World' award for the year 2015 by Shippax, which is the highest award given to a ferry on an international scale. Levante Ferries proudly presents the award's picture below the ship in the banner, while also labeling it as 'The Most Beautiful Shipferry in the World' and making the reference to the award with an asterisk. Under the FIOR DI LEVANTE, the company has a picture of its most recent acquisition: the chartered high speed craft SPEEDRUNNER III, owned by Aegean Speed Lines, which was used only for the 2016 summer season on the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line, which Ionian Group had reopened in 2015 after almost two years of inactivity (Ionian Ferries had abandoned the line in 2013, one year after replacing the Kefalonia-based company Strintzis Ferries which had ceased operations in late 2012). The high speed craft became the first ship of her type since the JET FERRY 1 of GA Ferries (which had been sold for scrap earlier this year after 8 years of lay-up in Piraeus) in 2001 to operate on the line. The five-month charter proved to be successful, and it also helped Ionian Group to maintain their three conventional ferries in the Kyllini operations. However, this will be the only season for the SPEEDRUNNER III with Levante Ferries, as next year she will return to her familiar Aegean Sea service on the Western Cyclades under her owners, in order to replace her fleetmate and sister ship, the SPEEDRUNNER IV, which was recently sold to Andros-based company Golden Star Ferries. Therefore, the future of the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line is currently in doubt, but Ionian Group has promised to continue operating there. In the banner, the ship was rightfully labeled as 'the fastest speedferry on the Ionian Sea', as she was the only high speed ferry in the area in 2016 (and more generally, the first high speed ferry to have operated there since the JET FERRY 1 last did in 2001).

A closer view of the Ionian Group area and the black and yellow ticket offices. Above the desks, the logos of Zante Ferries and Levante Ferries are seen respectively on the left side and the right side of the area, while the logo of Ionian Group is separating them in the middle. Right underneath, the joint venture's destinations (Zakynthos, Kefalonia and Ithaca) are mentioned. Though the SPEEDRUNNER III did not operate in Kyllini, passengers had the chance to get tickets for the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line in this agency as well.

On the left side of the offices there was another sign, this time representing the entire fleet of Ionian Group for the summer 2016 season, which was composed of three Levante Ferries ships and one Zante Ferries ship. On the top is Levante Ferries' flagship FIOR DI LEVANTE (she is also, technically, the flagship of Ionian Group), right below her is the MARE DI LEVANTE (ex-IONIAN STAR, which was bought in 2015 from Tyrogalas Ferries and which was spending her first summer under her new name), followed by the SPEEDRUNNER III (which has now left the joint venture since her charter ended), and by the DIONISIOS SOLOMOS, which is the only Zante Ferries-owned ship still operating on the Ionian Sea (the company's two other ferries, the ANDREAS KALVOS and the ADAMANTIOS KORAIS, both operate on the Western Cyclades). Among the four ships, she is also the one with the most experience on the Ionian Sea, as she has been operating there since 1999. She is followed by her former Shikoku Chuo Ferry (back when the two ships were operating in Japan together on the Osaka-Kobe-Kawanoe-Niihama line) and Ionian Ferries fleetmate MARE DI LEVANTE, which has been on the Ionian Sea since 2003. The joint venture's website is also mentioned at the bottom of the sign.

On the other side of the agency, one can find the competitors of Ionian Group: Kefalonian Lines. Owned by the Lykoudis family, the company began operations in 2013 after buying the KEFALONIA from Strintzis Ferries. The legendary ferry became the NISSOS KEFALONIA and has since been operating out of Kyllini. Apart from that ship, the company also operates another Ionian Sea veteran, the ZAKYNTHOS 1, which has been chartered from ANEZ since 2014. The company serves the islands of Kefalonia and Zakynthos (since late 2013), and for the 2016 season, each ship had an exclusive island to operate in: the NISSOS KEFALONIA operated in her namesake island, as did the ZAKYNTHOS 1 with her namesake line. In 2014 and 2015, both ships were operating on both islands (while the NISSOS KEFALONIA also operated in Ithaca). In this picture, we can see that the ticket agency is, just like it was the case with Ionian Group, dominated by the company's main colours, dark blue and white, and logo (the two wings forming the company's initial as well as the geographic shape of the island of Kefalonia), though the walls are built under an ancient Greek style, which I thought was pretty original.

As I looked towards the docks, I saw that the amazing FIOR DI LEVANTE had just entered the port and that she was preparing to maneuver.

The FIOR DI LEVANTE, the flagship of Levante Ferries, in her second summer operating on the Kyllini-Zakynthos line and on the Kyllini-Kefalonia line. She is a true jewel not only for the Ionian Sea, but also generally for the Greek coastal service.

In the meantime, her competitor, the ZAKYNTHOS 1, was already docked as she was preparing to depart for Zakynthos (she was the ferry on which I traveled that day, but more details will be revealed in next month's blog post).

Old vs. new: the 43-year-old ZAKYNTHOS 1 and the 18-year-old FIOR DI LEVANTE together in Kyllini.

The ZAKYNTHOS 1, during her third consecutive summer operating for Kefalonian Lines. She had been originally chartered for two years, beginning in 2014, but earlier this year the charter was extended by 6 more years, therefore ending in 2022 (though it is very possible that it will be renewed before that year).

The ZAKYNTHOS 1 resting as she sees the FIOR DI LEVANTE preparing to maneuver.

The FIOR DI LEVANTE maneuvering in Kyllini.

The beautiful FIOR DI LEVANTE maneuvering in Kyllini.

The FIOR DI LEVANTE maneuvering in Kyllini. As it is now known, the ship's hull insignia include, apart from her company's name and website, the 11880 and vrisko.gr brands, which are respectively the telephone service company and information website that Levante Ferries' owner, Georgios Theodosis, also controls.

The Kefalonian Lines logo occupying the funnel of the ZAKYNTHOS 1. This was the first summer that the ship spent without the printing of the map of the island of Zakynthos in her funnel, which she had while operating for ANEZ (since beginning service in Greece in 1990) and during her first two years with her current operators (in this case, the Kefalonian Lines logo had been printed in a much smaller size below the Zakynthos logo).

The FIOR DI LEVANTE undergoing her maneuvering procedure.

The FIOR DI LEVANTE almost completing her maneuvering procedure.

The FIOR DI LEVANTE completing her maneuvering procedure.

The FIOR DI LEVANTE having just finished maneuvering and now ready to dock.

The stern of the FIOR DI LEVANTE as she prepares to make contact with the port's pier.

The FIOR DI LEVANTE preparing to dock in Kyllini. Recently, the ship operated for about a month on the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line for the first time in her career, replacing the SPEEDRUNNER III whose charter had ended. Later she headed to Piraeus for her annual refit, undergoing her first-ever drydocking procedure in Greece in November of 2016.

The great FIOR DI LEVANTE preparing to dock in Kyllini.

Right next to the vehicle area was an unattended truck container which had a picture which could be interpreted as unusual in Kyllini, as the company it is representing does not have any connection with the port. Indeed, the container has an advertisement banner of the famous Greek company Superfast Ferries, one of the two members of Attica Group (along with Blue Star Ferries), which operates four ships on both the Adriatic Sea and on the Cyclades and the Dodecanese. The banner promotes the company's 20 years of operations, which were celebrated last year (the company began operations in 1995). On the left side of the banner, the company states that it promises that it will set sail for the next 20 years, while the two countries it is serving (Greece and Italy) are also mentioned. A picture of the company's flagship, the SUPERFAST XII, is dominating the middle section of the container.

The stern of the beautiful FIOR DI LEVANTE as she is seen docking in Kyllini.

The FIOR DI LEVANTE progressively heading towards the dock of Kyllini.

The FIOR DI LEVANTE seen once more.

One of the few buildings that remained unchanged in the port. This is the small church of Agios Nikoalos in Kyllini, standing right next to one of the port's lighthouses. The church serves as a tradition that suggests that Agios Nikolaos is the patron Saint of all seafarers.

Interesting picture, right? These are the remains of one of the previous ticket agencies. This is one more precisely was the one that was lastly occupied by Kefalonian Lines. Here, you can see that local customers are still looking to buy tickets there ;).

As I mentioned it above, I was pretty satisfied with the upgraded port of Kyllini, as the new ticket agencies are much more convenient and much more beautiful than the previous ones, despite being right at the port's entrance and therefore causing a bit of traffic. Since the port is served by reliable ships, I think the port authority and the companies did a good job in creating reliable agencies as well.

#kyllini #peloponnese #summer2016 #greece #ionian #zakynthos #kefalonia #ithaca #signs #agencies #ioniangroup #fiordilevante #maredilevante #speedrunneriii #levanteferries #dionisiossolomos #zanteferries #zakynthos1 #kefalonianlines #superfastferries #port

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