• Alexandros Vrailas

HELLENIC HIGHSPEED Tribute and Moments of Trip

Trip: 14 July 2017. From Ios to Piraeus, via Sifnos, with the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED of Hellenic Seaways.

The high speed monohull ferry HELLENIC HIGHSPEED was built in 1997 in Italy and was delivered as the SUPERSEACAT TWO to the company SuperSeaCat, owned by Sea Containers. She was the second of four sister ships belonging to the MDV 1200-class, that were intended to be delivered to the company in order to operate on the Channel. The other ships were the SUPERSEACAT ONE (now the ALMUDAINA DOS for Spanish company Trasmediterránea) built in 1997, and the SUPERSEACAT THREE and the SUPERSEACAT FOUR, both built in 1999 and later deployed in Greece. The SUPERSEACAT TWO was deployed on the Calais-Dover line in her debut year, but did not last long there, as in 1998 she was deployed on the Liverpool-Dublin line on the Irish Sea. In 1999, she was deployed on the Dieppe-Newhaven line on the Channel, while in 2000 she returned to the Irish Sea by operating on the Heysham-Belfast line. In 2001, she was deployed on the Ostend-Calais-Dover line, but this lasted only a year, as she was laid-up for the entire 2002 season in Portsmouth, having failed to experience any success on the Channel and on the Irish Sea, as it was the case with most high speed craft operating in the region at that time. After a one-year-long lay-up while being listed for sale, she was acquired by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, and was mainly deployed on Liverpool-Douglas line on the Irish Sea, while occasionally operating on the Dublin-Douglas line. In 2008, she was renamed VIKING. In 2009, with the arrival of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company's newer and larger high speed catamaran, the MANANNAN, the VIKING was chartered to the Azores-based company Atlântico Line. She was deployed on the Vila Do Porto-Ponta Delgada-Praia Da Vitória-Velas-Pico-Horta lifeline.

That same year, she was sold to Greek company Hellenic Seaways, which was looking for a new high speed craft to replace the departing HIGHSPEED 2 and HIGHSPEED 3, which were being at the time sold to now-defunct Moroccan company Comarit. She was joined in Greece by her two younger sister ships, the SUPERSEACAT THREE and the SUPERSEACAT FOUR, which had been sold to Greek company Aegean Speed Lines and were renamed SPEEDRUNNER III and SPEEDRUNNER IV, respectively. Following the completion of her charter on the Azores Archipelago, she arrived in Piraeus in late 2009, being renamed renamed HELLENIC WIND and being initially registered in Malta. Despite her arrival, she was not inserted into her new company's plans, continuing instead to operate for Atlântico Line. The company had already been chartering one of its conventional ferries there, the EXPRESS SANTORINI, since 2007. As Atlântico Line further requested a high speed craft to operate during the summer, the HELLENIC WIND was chosen at the expense of the other high speed craft of the company. Alongside the EXPRESS SANTORINI, between the summer of 2010 and the summer of 2015, she would be operating on the Vila Do Porto-Ponta Delgada-Praia Da Vitória-Velas-Pico-Horta lifeline. The EXPRESS SANTORINI was sold in the middle of 2014 season to Portucalence Shipping Company, a Greek-Portuguese company that was intending to maintain the ship on the Azores Archipelago. The latter company was then interested in purchasing the HELLENIC WIND from Hellenic Seaways as well, as she was not in her company's plans and had never actually operated for her owners, as she was only operating in the summer on the Azores, while spending time in Greece only during the winter, when she would only be laid-up and then refitted prior to her summer service with Atlântico Line. Despite initial negotiations, no sale was materialised and the ship returned in 2015 on the Azores with Atlântico Line.

Fortunes then changed for the ship. Following the completion of her charter in 2015, she operated for Hellenic Seaways for the first time since her acquisition in 2009 (only seven years later!), as she was deployed for two months on the inter-Cyclades lifeline, on the Lavrion-Kea-Kythnos-Syros-Tinos-Andros-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Sikinos-Folegandros-Kimolos-Milos-Sifnos-Serifos line as a replacement for her fleetmate operating there on a permanent basis, the ARTEMIS, while she was undergoing her annual refit. Following her successful spell there, she was finally inserted in her company's plans for the following summer, when it was decided that she would be operating on the Cyclades for 2016. She therefore underwent a major conversion in Perama, being fully renovated and being renamed HELLENIC HIGHSPEED, being reflagged to Greece and being registered in Piraeus. Her conversion was completed in 2016, and she was deployed on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Ios-Santorini line, replacing the FLYINGCAT 4 which was deployed on the Agios Konstantinos-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos-Thessaloniki line. Her service there was extremely successful despite the intense competition faced alongside companies such as Sea Jets, Fast Ferries and Golden Star Ferries.

Despite her tremendous success in Rafina, fortunes changed again for the high speed craft. Indeed, following the completion of the 2016 season, Hellenic Seaways shockingly sold one of its high speed ferries, the HIGHSPEED 6, to Spanish company Naviera Armas. The latter was operating on the successful Piraeus-Ios-Santorini line. Hellenic Seaways, not wanting to abandon this line, and lacking the number of high speed craft on the four lines she was operating in 2016, decided to sacrifice the Rafina service by deploying the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED on the Piraeus-Ios-Santorini line, with a call to Sifnos being subsequently added on the line. Her service in Rafina was taken over by her sister ship, the SPEEDRUNNER IV, which had been sold during the same period to Golden Star Ferries, being renamed SUPERRUNNER. The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED hence spent the summer on the Piraeus-Sifnos-Ios-Santorini line, where she also had a successful season, with the call to Sifnos being particularly praised. She also operated on the Piraeus-Syros-Mykonos line in afternoons during the high season, just like her ex-fleetmate, the ex-HIGHSPEED 6 (now the VOLCÁN DE TENO), had done so from 2013 to 2015.

The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED maneuvering in Ios the day before my trip with her.

So this is an overall history of the much-appreciated high speed craft, which has now been fully integrated to the Greek coastal service after several years of waiting, and, together with her two other sister ships, has been an integral high speed craft on the Cyclades. I can thus now talk about my trip with that ship. Indeed, it was my second trip for the 2017 season (after having done my first one four days before with the BLUE STAR PATMOS of Blue Star Ferries from Santorini to Ios), and my second-ever from an island on the Cyclades back to Piraeus, after having done that exactly two years and two days before with the CHAMPION JET 1 of Sea Jets when I was returning from Santorini to Piraeus. This trip marked my first-ever trip with a Hellenic Seaways high speed craft from the 'Highspeed' brand name, as well as my first-ever trip with a high speed ferry carrying the Greek flag, as the CHAMPION JET 1 on which I had traveled in 2015 operates under the Cypriot flag. Furthermore, this was the first out of the three Greece-based MDV 1200-class sister ships I traveled on, with the SPEEDRUNNER III and her ex-fleetmate, the SUPERRUNNER, still waiting for me in the future.

After my four-day stay in Ios, it was time for me to go back to Piraeus. The only ship departing the island in the afternoon was the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED. She was due to leave at 14:35 from Ios and reach Piraeus at 19:05 after first stopped in Sifnos.

The stern of the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED seen in Ios prior to boarding.

The ship was full of passengers heading back to Piraeus, as you can witness it through this picture of the ship's garage.

The garage section next to the ship's bow.

The Economy Class area located in the lower passenger deck, featuring only aircraft-style seats, alongside several TV screens.

The exterior deck of the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED. This is the crew compartment of the ship (leading to the bridge and the crew cabins), as seen from outside.

The starboard side outdoor passenger alley, featuring life-rafts, one orange rescue boat and the Business Class area (located inside).

The window facing the ship's stern, as seen from the Business Class area.

The ship's stern knot control area, highly vital when she arrives in ports and performs her maneuvering procedures.

While I was visiting the outdoor area, I was unfortunately told that I could not stay outside the ship while she was operating for safety reasons. Hence, I disappointingly headed to the indoor area of the ship, though I was allowed to be outdoors when the ship was approaching ports and while she was moored at the latter.

After only a few hours of travel, we had already reached the port of Sifnos. It was the second time I ever saw it, having seen it previously during my trip with the CHAMPION JET 1 in 2015, since she was also stopping to this island during that year's summer.

The beautiful port of Sifnos, known as Kamares, seen from the stern of the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED.

The pier of the port of Sifnos, with the village of Kamares in the background.

The left-side corner of the island's port.

The Greek flag in the stern of the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED, which she has been carrying since 2016, after spending her first years with Hellenic Seaways under the Maltese flag.

The outdoor passenger open deck, featuring an open space up to the stern and being circled by two white benches.

Next to the port was the oil-chemical tanker NAOUSSA, owned by Delta Shipping International. She operates across the entire Aegean Sea, and mainly on the Cyclades.

After only a few minutes of unloading and loading passengers and vehicles, the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED departed Sifnos, en route to our final destination, Piraeus.

The port of Kamares as seen upon the departure of the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED. 2017 marked the first summer that a Hellenic Seaways high speed ferry served the Western Cyclades since 2010, when the HIGHSPEED 6 had been deployed there during her debut season.

The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED beginning to sail at full-speed after departing Sifnos. The NAOUSSA can be seen in the background.

Exiting the gulf of Kamares in Sifnos. Twelve days after that trip, I would find myself landing in Sifnos for the first time in my life, as I stayed there for four days with my family.

Shortly after having left the island of Sifnos, I was forced to go inside the ship once again, being only able to return outside when the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED was approaching the port of Piraeus.

After three hours at sea, we finally reached the port of Piraeus. As usual, upon arriving there, one can see a ship operating on the Dodecanese that is resting at the E1 gate, which right next to the entrance/exit piers. In this case, the SUPERFAST XII of Superfast Ferries greeted me during my first appearance in Piraeus for the 2017 season.

The SUPERFAST XII is the flagship of Superfast Ferries, and was built in Germany in 2002. She was spending her third consecutive season on the Dodecanese, having been deployed there for the first time in 2015, after stints on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Ancona line (under two different periods, with the second including stops in Corfu in 2014), and the Piraeus-Heraklion line.

The majestic cruiseferry SUPERFAST XII resting in Piraeus. For the 2017 season she was operating on the Piraeus-Syros-Amorgos-Patmos-Leros-Kalymnos-Kos-Rhodes line.

The SUPERFAST XII, one of the best ships in the Greek coastal service, resting in Piraeus.

Another view of the SUPERFAST XII as we are soon beginning to pass by her.

The SUPERFAST XII in Piraeus. Recently, with the announcement of the sale of Hellenic Seaways, owners of the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED, to Attica Group, the deal has stated that she is due to be acquired by the main company of the Grimaldi Group (which owns Minoan Lines), Grimaldi Lines. Although the sale has not yet been finalised, I hope it does not, as it will otherwise mean that the Greek coastal service will lose of its most successful and most vital members. We will see over time.

Next to the SUPERFAST XII is the E2 gate which is for the ships operating on the Northeast Aegean Sea. There, the flagship of Superfast Ferries' collaborator Blue Star Ferries, the BLUE STAR 1, was resting in the port. Next to her is the floating museum and Liberty ship HELLAS LIBERTY.

One last view of the SUPERFAST XII.

The BLUE STAR 1 seen in Piraeus, during her third season operating on the Northeast Aegean Sea (as well as on the Cyclades). That summer, as it was also the case in 2016, she was on the Piraeus-Syros-Mykonos-Psara-Oinousses-Chios-Mytilene line.

The BLUE STAR 1, built in 2000 in The Netherlands, and present in Greece since her delivery (apart from a brief stint on the Zeebrugge-Rosyth line back when Attica Group was operating on the North Sea from 2007 to 2008), resting in Piraeus.

The BLUE STAR 1 seen as we are passing by her in Piraeus.

The BLUE SATR 1 moored in Piraeus.

And another view of the BLUE STAR 1.

Right behind the BLUE SATR 1 was yet another flagship of a major Greek coastal service company. This time it was the flagship of Minoan Lines, the KNOSSOS PALACE, which operates on the Piraeus-Heraklion line.

The KNOSSOS PALACE seen in Piraeus.

The impressive KNOSSOS PALACE seen in Piraeus. She was built during the same year as the BLUE STAR 1 (and three years after the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED), though she was completed in Italy for the Heraklion-based company. The BLUE STAR 1 and the KNOSSOS PALACE once competed against each other, back in 2013, when the BLUE STAR 1 had been deployed on the Piraeus-Heraklion line.

The KNOSSOS PALACE seen resting in Piraeus.

Another view of the KNOSSOS PALACE in Piraeus.

Right behind the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED was one of her fleetmates, the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN XVIII of Hellenic Seaways, which operates on the Saronic Gulf. She was returning from the island of Aegina and had just entered the port of Piraeus.

Passing by the KNOSSOS PALACE.

Lastly, in the Western section of the port, right behind the KNOSSOS PALACE was her Cretan competitor, the BLUE GALAXY of Blue Star Ferries.

The BLUE GALAXY, previously known as the LEFKA ORI of ANEK Lines, seen in Piraeus, in what was her third straight season operating for Blue Star Ferries on the Piraeus-Chania line, as part of the ANEK-Attica Group joint venture.

The impressive BLUE GALAXY seen resting in Piraeus, prior to her late evening departure for Chania.

The BLUE GALAXY seen in Piraeus, from where she has been operating since 2015.

Another view of the BLUE GALAXY.

The BLUE GALAXY resting in Piraeus.

And other picture of the BLUE GALAXY prior to her departure for Chania.

On the Eastern section of the port, there were not many ferries, with the exception of a particular one. This was a familiar face, which I had however not seen since 2013. It was the APOLLON HELLAS of 2way Ferries, which had returned to the Saronic Gulf (where she has spent most of her career) for the first time since the summer of 2013. She was previously the fleetmate of the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED, having been owned by Hellenic Seaways from 2005 up until her sale to her current owners last year. Between the summers of 2014 and 2016, she had been deployed on the Sporades.

The APOLLON HELLAS seen departing Piraeus for Aegina. It was the first time I saw the ship under the colours of 2way Ferries, having last seen her under Hellenic Seaways ownership back in 2013.

And while the APOLLON HELLAS was departing Piraeus, another ferry was entering the port. This was the KRITI II of ANEK Lines, which operates on the Piraeus-Heraklion line.

The APOLLON HELLAS leaving Piraeus, during her first summer on the Saronic Gulf since 2013 and her first under 2way Ferries, which had also purchased her frequent collaborator and former Hellenic Seaways fleetmate the year before, in 2015, the POSIDON HELLAS.

The KRITI II approaching her docking spot in Piraeus. She has been on the Piraeus-Heraklion line since 2015, having also served there previously from 2002 to 2008 and from 2010 to 2011.

The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED did a quick maneuvering procedure in the E7 gate, where the high speed craft of Hellenic Seaways operating on the Cyclades traditionally dock. That was therefore the end of the trip and the end of the day for the ship, before her next departure to the Cyclades the following day.

Despite not being able to spend as much time as I desired in the outdoor area of the ship, it was still a pleasant experience and I admired the services offered by the ship and her crew. It was a nice trip which concluded my stay in Ios and marked the beginning of my time in Athens and later in other islands. I was finally back in Piraeus after many months, and this place went on to be a frequent one for me in the following two months, usually in order to take pictures.

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