• Alexandros Vrailas

High Speed Craft in Ios on 13 July 2017

As part of my five-day stay in the island of Ios during my first days in Greece for the summer of 2017, I decided to take advantage of the ship spotting opportunities occurring daily at the island. Indeed, on 13 July, after walking around the island in order to discover it more in depth, I reached the port, where I managed to see an impressive shipping spectacle, with several high speed craft arriving all one after the other in order to dock, unload passengers, load new ones and departing immediately afterwards for other different destinations. This was mainly explained by the fact that, during the high season, high speed craft all arrive in Ios at noon, depending on the connections they make with other islands on the Cyclades, as well as the ports of Piraeus and Rafina in Attica, or even the port of Heraklion in Crete. Ios has generally been connected with other popular Cyclades islands, notably its closest neighbour Santorini, but also Paros, Naxos, Mykonos and islands on the Western Cyclades such as Sifnos, Milos or Folegandros.

The previous day, while walking near the Chora (the capital of the island, located on the hill just above the port), I had already seen two ships arriving at and leaving the port of Ios, these being the high speed craft HELLENIC HIGHSPEED of Hellenic Seaways, and the ferry AQUA SPIRIT of Sea Jets Ferries. Indeed, the former arrived first, docked immediately, and soon left for Santorini, while the latter was waiting near the dock in order to unload and leave for Thirassia, as part of her busy inter-Cyclades service.

The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED seen maneuvering on 12 July 2017 in Ios, after having arrived from Sifnos.

The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED seen leaving the port of Ios, while the ferry AQUA SPIRIT prepares to dock. This month turned out to be her last one while operating in Greece, as she was sold by Sea Jets Ferries to Canadian company BC Ferries. She was replaced after two years of service with Sea Jets by her former NEL Lines inter-Cyclades partner, the AQUA JEWEL, which was bought by the same company, following NEL Lines' demise and a three-year-long lay-up due to an engine failure she had suffered in 2014. The AQUA SPIRIT is now in Canada, has been renamed NORTHERN SEA WOLF, and is due to begin operations there during the summer of 2018. She is notably the first ship Sea Jets has ever sold in its 13-year history.

On 13 July 2017, therefore, the spectacle mentioned above included four high speed ferries operating under three different owners, as well as a small high speed tour boat.

As I was heading towards the port of Ios from the Chora, the first ship I noticed was the small high speed tour boat CAPTAIN KOULIS of the Santorini Boatmen Union. That ship, built in 2007, operates on the Santorini-Nea Kameni-Palaia Kameni-Ios line, and is sometimes deployed to transport cruise ship passengers from Santorini to Ios, or passengers from cruise ships docking near Ios, as the port is too small to fit them.

The CAPTAIN KOULIS as seen from the port of Ios upon my arrival at the latter.

That day, the CAPTAIN KOULIS was serving as a shuttle for passengers transported by the cruise ship CELESTYAL NEFELI of Celestyal Cruises, seen in the background.

The CAPTAIN KOULIS heading towards the CELESTYAL NEFELI in order to get more passengers from the latter to Ios.

The CAPTAIN KOULIS heading towards the CELESTYAL NEFELI.

The CAPTAIN KOULIS seen here returning to the port of Ios.

The small CAPTAIN KOULIS approaching the port of Ios. 2017 marked her eleventh season in Greek waters, having been built in Chalkidiki and serving the well-appreciated Santorini Boatmen Union ever since. She is named after the legendary Captain Kyrgiakos Koulis, who served in the Hellenic Navy for many years and was much adored by the Aegean Sea residents, particularly the ones from the Cyclades.

The CAPTAIN KOULIS seen in Ios. She was the first of four sister ships that were built for the Santorini Boatmen Union in Chalkidiki. The other ships are the ORPHEAS, the NEFELI and the YPAPANTI. The CAPTAIN KOULIS was the flagship of the company from 2007 until 2013, when the much larger passenger boat GARBIS was delivered, followed by her sister ship, the SANTORINI, in 2015. Both ships were built in Santorini.

The CAPTAIN KOULIS is also the company's hospital ship, being able to transport any sick Cyclades residents across the entire region when necessary, something for which she has been much acclaimed.

The CAPTAIN KOULIS having just docked in Ios.

The CAPTAIN KOULIS departing Ios again and heading towards the CELESTYAL NEFELI.

The CAPTAIN KOULIS heading towards the CELESTYAL NEFELI.

As the CAPTAIN KOULIS was leaving again, at this moment the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED emerged. It was the second straight day I was seeing her in Ios (and in general at the time).

The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED preparing to maneuver in Ios.

The funnel of the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED, with the background being white and featuring the well-known three dolphins of Hellenic Seaways, painted in red.

The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED preparing to maneuver in Ios. Built in 1997, she operated in 2017 on the Piraeus-Sifnos-Ios-Santorini line, where she was very successful.

The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED had been bought by Hellenic Seaways in 2009, initially being named HELLENIC WIND. However, she did not start to operate for them until 2016. This was because she was not initially part of the company's plans, being instead chartered every summer from 2010 to 2015 to the Portuguese company Atlântico Line, being deployed on the Azores Archipelago lifeline. She finally entered the company's plans following the 2015 season, being converted in Perama and being renamed HELLENIC HIGHSPEED. She entered service in 2016, on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Ios-Santorini line, where she met much success. She however had to leave that line in 2017, as she replaced the HIGHSPEED 6, which had been operating on the Piraeus-Ios-Santorini line and had been sold to Spanish company Naviera Armas following the summer of 2016. The island of Sifnos was added to the line for the 2017 season, a move which was seen as very successful.

The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED was hence arriving from Sifnos, and she is seen here maneuvering in the port of Ios.

In the meantime, the CAPTAIN KOULIS was once again returning from the CELESTYAL NEFELI to Ios.

The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED maneuvering.

The CAPTAIN KOULIS seen in Ios.

The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED having completed her maneuvering procedure and preparing to dock in Ios.

The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED having docked in Ios.

The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED having docked in Ios and immediately unloading passengers.

The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED unloading passengers in Ios.

Another picture of the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED unloading passengers and vehicles in Ios.

In the meantime, another high speed ferry was arriving in Ios and waiting her moment of docking. That was the CHAMPION JET 2 of rival operator Sea Jets.

The CHAMPION JET 2 spent the summer season on the Heraklion-Rethymnon-Santorini-Ios-Naxos-Paros-Mykonos line, thus connecting Crete with the Cyclades, on one of the most popular seasonal lines in the Greek coastal service.

The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED still unloading passengers and vehicles and ready to take the incoming passengers and vehicles to her next destination, Santorini.

The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED having finished her loading of passengers and vehicles and now departing the port of Ios.

The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED performing her departure maneuvering procedure.

The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED preparing to depart Ios.

As the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED was departing, the CHAMPION JET 2 (having arrived from Santorini) was slowly beginning to head towards the port, which is too small to fit two ferries at the same time.

The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED has completed her departure maneuvering procedure and begins to head towards the port's exit.

The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED begins to head towards the port's exit.

The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED leaving Ios.

The CHAMPION JET 2 heading towards the dock of the port of Ios.

The CHAMPION JET 2 approaching the port of Ios. Built in 1996 in Australia, she was acquired by Sea Jets in 2015, alongside her younger sister ship, the CHAMPION JET 1. She spent her first two seasons on the Piraeus-Mykonos-Naxos-Santorini line, before switching lines with the CHAMPION JET 1 and being thus deployed on the Heraklion-Rethymnon-Santorini-Ios-Naxos-Paros-Mykonos line. Coincidentally, 13 July 2017 marked exactly two years and one day since my trip with the CHAMPION JET 2's sister, ship, the CHAMPION JET 1, when I was heading from Santorini to Piraeus. Moreover, during that trip, I had also passed by Ios before arriving to Piraeus.

The CHAMPION JET 2 heading towards the dock while the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED leaves for Santorini.

The CHAMPION JET 2 approaching the dock of the port of Ios after having arrived from Santorini, while the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED heads towards that same island.

The speedy CHAMPION JET 2 fully heading towards the port of Ios. She had briefly operated on the Heraklion-Rethymnon-Santorini-Ios-Naxos-Paros-Mykonos line in September and October 2016 when the CHAMPION JET 1 went to undergo her winter refit earlier than expected. 2017 however marked her first summer operating there full-time.

The CHAMPION JET 2 heading towards the dock of the port of Ios.

The CHAMPION JET 2 seen in Ios.

Another view of the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED.

The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED leaves Ios for Santorini.

The CHAMPION JET 2 preparing to maneuver in Ios.

The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED leaving Ios.

The CHAMPION JET 2 seen maneuvering in Ios.

The CHAMPION JET 2 maneuvering in the port of Ios.

The CHAMPION JET 2 almost finishing to maneuver in Ios.

One final picture of the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED as she exits the port of Ios.

The CHAMPION JET 2 almost done with her maneuvering procedure.

The CHAMPION JET 2 having just maneuvered, and now preparing to dock in Ios.

The CHAMPION JET 2 docking in Ios.

The CHAMPION JET 2 having almost docked in Ios.

The CHAMPION JET 2 having just docked and unloading a significant amount of passengers.

While the CHAMPION JET 2 unloads passengers and vehicles, the smaller CAPTAIN KOULIS leaves Ios in order to reach the CELESTYAL NEFELI once again.

The CHAMPION JET 2 and the CAPTAIN KOULIS, two completely different ships, seen together in Ios.

The CAPTAIN KOULIS leaving Ios.

The CHAMPION JET 2 loading passengers ahead of her departure to her next destination, Naxos.

The CHAMPION JET 2 departing Ios.

The CHAMPION JET 2 leaving Ios.

The CHAMPION JET 2 departing Ios in order to head towards Naxos.

Just like the CHAMPION JET 2 was waiting for the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED to depart from Ios, something similar occurred with the former's own departure. Indeed, the next ship waiting for her moment of docking was none other than the CHAMPION JET 2's direct competitor, the much-acclaimed HIGHSPEED 7 of Hellenic Seaways.

The HIGHSPEED 7, having also arrived from Santorini, begins to head towards the dock of the port of Ios, while the CHAMPION JET 2 heads from Ios to Naxos.

The HIGHSPEED 7 is considered to be one of the best, if not the best, high speed craft in Greece. She was built in 2005, and was previously known as the HIGHSPEED 5, the name she bore from her entry to service until 2016. The name change occurred because of her tragic fire incident in 2015, whereupon, following her repair, she was deployed as a completely new ship, with the view of leaving her past experience as the HIGHSPEED 5 behind. She has since made a successful comeback with Hellenic Seaways.

The HIGHSPEED 7, just like the CHAMPION JET 2, connects Crete with the Cyclades by operating on the Heraklion-Santorini-Ios-Paros-Mykonos line (unlike the CHAMPION JET 2, she does not operate in Rethymnon and Naxos). This season was her fourth overall on that line, having spent two seasons as the HIGHSPEED 5 (in 2013 and 2014, the latter year was her most successful to date) and two as the HIGHSPEED 7 (2016 and 2017), having missed the entire 2015 season because of her fire incident that same year.

The HIGHSPEED 7 preparing to dock in Ios. She has been, ever since her delivery, the youngest 'Highspeed' among the seven that Hellenic Seaways have operated in their thirteen years of operations. Only three operate as of 2017: the HIGHSPEED 7, the HIGHSPEED 4 and the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED.

The HIGHSPEED 7 preparing to maneuver in Ios. It was the first time in my life that I saw this ship standing right in front of me.

The HIGHSPEED 7 almost ready to maneuver in Ios.

One of the two modern funnels of the HIGHSPEED 7 featuring, as it was also the case with the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED, the three dolphins of Hellenic Seaways.

The HIGHSPEED 7 almost ready to begin her maneuvering procedure in ios.

The HIGHSPEED 7 maneuvering in Ios. Recently, following the announced sale of Hellenic Seaways to Attica Group, part of that deal includes the sale of the HIGHSPEED 7 to Minoan Lines. Should the deal be accepted by the Geek Competition Authority, Hellenic Seaways could potentially lose one of its best ships, though no decision will be made until at least the start of 2018.

Regardless of the sale occurring, should the ship be sold to Minoan Lines, this would most likely mean she will remain in Greece (with Minoan Lines having expressed earlier this year their intention to enhance their presence on the Aegean Sea, beyond their daily service on the Piraeus-Heraklion line).

The HIGHSPEED 7 maneuvering in Ios Regardless of her potential sale, we can still admire her as she is just like that day in Ios.

The HIGHSPEED 7 maneuvering in Ios.

The HIGHSPEED 7 almost done with her maneuvering procedure in Ios.

The HIGHSPEED 7 having completed her maneuvering procedure and preparing to dock in the port of Ios.

The HIGHSPEED 7 almost docked in ios.

The HIGHSPEED 7 almost berthed in the port of Ios.

The HIGHSPEED 7 having just docked in Ios.

The HIGHSPEED 7 unloading dozens of passengers and vehicles in Ios.

After a quick stay in the pier of the port of Ios, the HIGHSPEED 7 left immediately, in order to reach Paros before her competitor, the CHAMPION JET 2, while the latter is heading towards Naxos.

The HIGHSPEED 7 departing the port of Ios.

The amazing HIGHSPEED 7 leaving Ios.

The CAPTAIN KOULIS returns to dock in Ios once more.

The little CAPTAIN KOULIS heading towards the port of Ios.

The HIGHSPEED 7 heading towards the exit of the port of Ios.

The HIGHSPEED 7 leaving Ios for Paros.

The HIGHSPEED 7 departing the port of Ios.

The HIGHSPEED 7 leaving Ios, in what could have been my first and last time seeing her under the colours of Hellenic Seaways. We will see what the future will determine.

The CAPTAIN KOULIS resting in the small cruise dock of Ios.

A view of the cruise ship CELESTYAL NEFELI of Celestyal Cruises. She had been chartered by the Greek cruise line since 2016, and her stint with them is certainly over now, as she has again taken her former name prior to this charter, being renamed GEMINI.

Right next to her, a few minutes after the departure of the HIGHSPEED 7, the sister ship of the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED emerged. It was the SUPERRUNNER of Golden Star Ferries, formerly known as the SPEEDRUNNER IV of Aegean Speed Lines.

Having already seen this ship as the SPEEDRUNNER IV in the past, it was somehow surprising to see her under new colours and under a new name. Indeed, the ship was purchased by the Andros-based Golden Star Ferries after the 2016 season, becoming the first high speed craft in the history of the company. The summer of 2017 was her debut season with her new owners, as she was deployed on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini line.

The SUPERRUNNER was hence arriving from Naxos, after also serving the Cyclades ports of Tinos, Mykonos and Paros from Rafina, which is her company's base port.

The SUPERRUNNER operated for Aegean Speed Lines from 2009 to 2016, spending most of her seasons with them on the Western Cyclades. She was, as the SPEEDRUNNER IV, the flagship of her former company. Her sale has since left Aegean Speed Lines with only one ship as part of their fleet, this being the sister ship of the SUPERRUNNER, the SPEEDRUNNER III.

The SUPERRUNNER ready to dock in Ios. Her first season with Golden Star Ferries was very successful, despite strong competition from Sea Jets, which had also deployed two high speed ferries from Rafina to the Cyclades, the TERA JET and the PAROS JET, at very low fares.

The SUPERRUNNER preparing to maneuver in Ios.

The SUPERRUNNER ready to maneuver in Ios.

The SUPERRUNNER seen in Ios, shortly before her maneuvering procedure.

The SUPERRUNNER ahead of her maneuvering procedure in Ios.

The SUPERRUNNER maneuvering in Ios.

The SUPERRUNNER maneuvering in Ios.

One of the two funnels of the SUPERRUNNER, featuring the logo of Golden Star Ferries, as well as the colours of the company, with the vertical yellow stripe being traditionally at the back of the funnel, as it is the case with the company's two other ships, the SUPERFERRY and the SUPERFERRY II.

The SUPERRUNNER completing her maneuvering procedure in Ios.

The SUPERRUNNER having completed her maneuvering procedure and docking in Ios.

Just a few minutes later, the ship already departs the port in order to reach her final destination, Santorini, prior to making the return trip back to Rafina.

The SUPERRUNNER departing Ios. The summer of 2017 marked the first summer during which she and her two other sister ships operating in Greece (her third sister ship operates in Spain for Trasmediterránea as the ALMUDAINA DOS) worked for three different owners: the SUPERRUNNER for Golden Star Ferries, the SPEEDRUNNER III for Aegean Speed Lines and the elder HELLENIC HIGHSPEED for Hellenic Seaways. Though the SPEEDRUNNER III in 2016 operated for Levante Ferries, it was a charter and she was still owned by Aegean Speed Lines. All ships, built in Italy as part of the MDV 1200-class, had previously operated together for SuperSeaCat on the Baltic Sea in the early 2000s before beginning their careers in Southern Europe in the late 2000s.

The SUPERRUNNER departing Ios for Santorini.

The SUPERRUNNER exiting the port of Ios following her departure maneuvering procedure.

The SUPERRUNNER leaving Ios.

The SUPERRUNNER departing Ios.

The SUPERRUNNER heading towards the port of Ios' exit.

The CAPTAIN KOULIS returning to Ios yet again.