• Alexandros Vrailas

APOLLON HELLAS Tribute and Moments of Trip

Trip: 7 August 2017. From Piraeus to Aegina, with the APOLLON HELLAS of 2way Ferries.

The APOLLON HELLAS was built in Greece in 1990 as the GEORGIOS, for the company Akouriki Shipping Company, for service on the Saronic Gulf. She operated on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri-Methana-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses line. She was sold to the South Korean company He Il in 1995 and was renamed SUN BEACH. Her Saronic Gulf service was taken over by the newbuilding GEORGIOS 2 (now the ARTEMIS of Hellenic Seaways, which went on to become her fleetmate for many years).

However, she returned to Greece four years later, after having been bought by Poseidon Consortium Shipping, which renamed her APOLLON HELLAS and re-deployed her on the Saronic Gulf, which was the area where she had started her career. She was inserted on the Piraeus-Aegina-Methana-Poros-Hydra-Spetses line. But she went on to spend only one summer with her owner, as she was sold in late 1999 to Minoan Flying Dolphins. This company, founded by Minoan Lines and led by the well-known entrepreneur Pantelis Sfinias, had entered the scene of Greek coastal service in 1999 by purchasing the entire hydrofoil network of Ceres Flying Dolphins. It then quickly expanded by purchasing ships from several Aegean Sea-based companies, such as the entire fleet of Agapitos Express Ferries (including the Ro-Ro carrier division operating on the Adriatic Sea, known as Express Sea Trailers), Agapitos Lines, Nomicos Lines, Arkadia Lines, Lindos Lines, as well as ferries from Agoudimos Lines, Goutos Lines, Ventouris Ferries and, finally, all ferries operating on the Saronic Gulf at the time, including those of Poseidon Consortium Shipping. Ahead of the 2000 summer season, the company then created four different divisions for its ferries: Hellas Ferries for all conventional ferries operating on the Cyclades, the Dodecanese and the Northeast Aegean Sea, Hellas Flying Dolphins for all high speed craft, Sporades Ferries for all conventional ferries on the Sporades, and Saronikos Ferries for all conventional ferries and landing craft operating on the Saronic Gulf. The APOLLON HELLAS was hence operated by Saronikos Ferries and continued to operate on the Saronic Gulf, always on the Piraeus-Aegina-Methana-Poros-Hydra-Spetses line.

Her company was renamed Hellas Flying Dolphins in 2002, before changing its name again in 2005, becoming Hellenic Seaways Hellenic Seaways. The APOLLON HELLAS joined the latter and was deployed on the Piraeus-Aegina-Methana-Poros line until 2014, when she was deployed on the Sporades, operating on the Volos-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos line, though she continued to operate on the Saronic Gulf during the winter under the Saronic Ferries joint venture (which included, when launched, Hellenic Seaways, 2way Ferries and Nova Ferries). In the summer of 2015 she returned to the Sporades, this time being deployed on the Agios Konstantinos-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos line, while operating again on the Saronic Gulf for that year's winter season.

In 2016, after eleven years with Hellenic Seaways, she was sold to 2way Ferries, a company which had also bought her former Saronic Gulf fleetmate POSIDON HELLAS in 2015, and she resumed her operations on the Agios Konstantinos-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos line on the Sporades. Following the 2016 season she returned to her original area of operation: the Saronic Gulf. This marked her return to the owner who briefly had her in 1999, Papaïoannidis, who then founded 2way Ferries after having sold her to Minoan Flying Dolphins. She also became the first single-ended ferry of the company, as all other ferries owned by the latter at the time were double-ended ferries, thus being the first ship not to fit the '2way' term which makes-up the company's name. For the 2017 season, it was announced that she would spend her first summer on the Saronic Gulf since 2013, serving the Piraeus-Aegina-Methana-Poros line once again.

So this is a quick overview of the now-28-year-old APOLLON HELLAS, a reliable Greek coastal service veteran that has always provided efficient service wherever she has operated thus far in her career.

The APOLLON HELLAS seen in Piraeus on 26 July 2017, twelve days before my trip with her.

My trip with the APOLLON HELLAS came in 7 August 2017, as part of my stay on the island of Aegina (one of the two islands I go to every summer) with my family for this year's summer. We were previously on the other island that we go to each year, Zakynthos. After spending eight days on the latter, we took the FIOR DI LEVANTE of Levante Ferries from there to Kyllini, then drove from the Peloponnesian port to Piraeus, where ferries depart for Aegina and the other Saronic Gulf ports. This marked my first-ever trip with the ship under the colours of 2way Ferries, and also meant that I had now traveled with all three ships of 2way Ferries that operate on the Saronic Gulf (having already previously traveled with the ACHAEOS and the POSIDON HELLAS under their current owners). Moreover, it was my first trip with her in seven years, as I remember myself traveling onboard her while she was operating for Hellenic Seaways back in 2010.

The back section of the garage shortly after having entered the ship, which is much darker and with limited capacity for vehicles to enter and exit simultaneously.

The forward section of the garage, much brighter and much larger, being able to fit 100 vehicles.

The garage has a a door near the stern that leads to the stairway that brings passengers to the ship's accommodation superstructure. The back section of the lower passenger deck has multiple tables and seats.

The middle section of that same area has more lounges built symmetrically, also featuring a small Everest bar in the center.

The forward section also features symmetrical lounges, which are however much brighter than in the middle section.

The ship's reception desk and pursuer's office.

The ship has several paintings posted on her walls indoors displaying the Saronic Gulf. This one, located in the lower deck. This painting shows two traditional sailing ships on a Saronic Gulf port (presumably Spetses).

The upper deck passenger lounge area, featuring dark grey seats.

The lower deck outdoor alley on the ship's port side.

And here is the ship's port side outdoor alley from the upper passenger deck.

The upper passenger deck features a sun deck located in the stern section of the ship, with several red and blue seats facing each other in rows.

The upper passenger deck has a stairway leading to an open deck at the highest accessible point of the ship. This helps the passenger have a 360 degree overview of the ship and her surroundings. It features columns of plastic seats, coloured in black, blue, and red and pink in the front section.

The forward section of the open deck area.

The back section of the open deck area, featuring the sun deck covering the deck below, alongside the ship's two funnels.

Next to the APOLLON HELLAS was the small passenger ship AGIA MARINA AEGINIS of Evoïkos Lines, which operates on the Piraeus-Northern Aegina line, serving the ports of Souvala and Agia Marina.

In front of the APOLLON HELLAS was the high speed craft SUPER JET of Sea Jets, which was operating on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos-Folegandros-Ios-Santorini line.

The AGIA MARINA AEGINIS seen in Piraeus. 2017 was her second season with Evoïkos Lines, after having spent the 2015 season as the ALEXANDROS under my WAYS, and previously with Alexandros Shipping (2000-2015, being deployed on her current service in 2008).

The SUPER JET, also in her second season on her line, shortly before her afternoon departure.

A view of the cruiseferry EL. VENIZELOS of ANEK Lines, which operated on the Piraeus-Chania line.

In the meantime, a former fleetmate of the APOLLON HELLAS, the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN XVIII of Hellenic Seaways, was departing Piraeus.

The FLYING DOLPHIN XVIII, which operates on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line, seen departing Piraeus.

A view of the EL. VENIZELOS, which was back on the Piraeus-Chania line for the first time since 2012.

The AGIA MARINA AEGINIS seen resting in Piraeus.

The FLYING DOLPHIN XVIII departing Piraeus.

The SUPER JET preparing for departure as well.

The FLYING DOLPHIN XVIII seen leaving Piraeus.

The FLYING DOLPHIN XVIII leaving Piraeus.

The FLYING DOLPHIN XVIII exiting Piraeus.

We then began to leave the port as well. I was able to take a snapshot of the Hellenic Seaways headquarters building, which features a huge post depicting two of the company's most important ships: the cruiseferry NISSOS MYKONOS which operates on the Piraeus-Syros-Mykonos-Ikaria-Samos-Chios-Mytilene-Limnos-Kavala line, and the high speed craft HIGHSPEED 4, which operates on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Koufonisi-Amorgos line.

The EL. VENIZELOS seen in Piraeus. The then-25-year-old cruiseferry was previously the flagship of ANEK Lines from 1992 until 2000, and has since been operating either under charter to companies on the Western Mediterranean Sea (Tunisia Ferries each summer from 2004 to 2011, the now-defunct SNCM in 2013, Go In Sardinia in 2014 and Africa Morocco Link in 2016), or replacing her fleetmates during their annual refits on the Adriatic Sea and on the Aegean Sea. Initially not due to operate in 2017, the charters of the KYDON, the KRITI I and the ELYROS to other companies left a spot available on the Piraeus-Chania line, which she covered immediately and operated efficiently.

A view of the cruiseferry FESTOS PALACE of Minoan Lines, which operates on the Piraeus-Heraklion line.

Another view of the AGIA MARINA AEGINIS.

The AGIA MARINA AEGINIS slowly departing Piraeus.

The SUPER JET almost ready to depart as well.

A view of the KRITI II of ANEK Lines, also operating on the Piraeus-Heraklion line.

The KRITI II, the oldest ferry currently operating for ANEK Lines, has been present on the Piraeus-Heraklion line since 2015, having also served on it from 2002 to 2008 and from 2010 until the start of the 2011 summer season.

The AGIA MARINA AEGINIS seen departing Piraeus.

The SUPER JET almost ready to leave the port.

Another view of the KRITI II.

The EL. VENIZELOS seen resting in Piraeus.

The EL. VENIZELOS seen in Piraeus. She is reportedly set to return in 2018 to the Piraeus-Chania line, again replacing the ELYROS, which is currently on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Venice line.

The FESTOS PALACE, in what was her seventeenth season on the Piraeus-Heraklion line.

As we were exiting the port, the high speed ferry SPEEDRUNNER III of Aegean Speed Lines had just entered it. She was returning from the Western Cyclades, an area where she returned for the first time since 2014.

The ANEK Lines duo serving the two main ports of Crete from Piraeus in 2017 (and likely to also be the case in 2018): the KRITI II and the EL. VENIZELOS.

Next to them, in the corner of the E7 gate, was the cruiseferry BLUE STAR PATMOS of Blue Star Ferries.

Another view of the FESTOS PALACE.

The KRITI II seen in Piraeus.

Alongside the EL. VENIZELOS.

The SUPER JET seen departing the port of Piraeus.

The SPEEDRUNNER III heading towards her docking spot. I had traveled with her nine days prior to my trip with the APOLLON HELLAS. In 2017, she was on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos-Folegandros-Sikinos line. For 2018, she is set to only operate on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos line.

The FESTOS PALACE seen resting in Piraeus.

The SUPER JET following us from behind.

The SPEEDRUNNER III heading towards her docking spot.

The FESTOS PALACE, with the KRITI II seen right behind her.

The SPEEDRUNNER III having returned to Piraeus.

As we were heading towards the exit of the port of Piraeus, we passed next to another former fleetmate of the APOLLON HELLAS, the ARIADNE of Hellenic Seaways.

Another view of the SPEEDRUNNER III.

The SUPER JET heading towards the exit of the port of Piraeus.

The BLUE STAR PATMOS resting in Piraeus, in what was her third straight season on the Piraeus-Syros-Paros-Naxos-Donousa-Amorgos-Ios-Santorini-Anafi-Astypalaia line.

Another picture of the FESTOS PALACE.

The ARIADNE seen resting in Piraeus. After spending five consecutive summers on the Piraeus-Chios-Mytilene line, she will unfortunately not be present on the Aegean Sea in 2018, as she is due to be chartered to Italian company Tirrenia di Navigazione.

As we headed even more close to the port's exit, the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA of Aegean Flying Dolphins was spotted entering Piraeus, having returned from Aegina.

The FLYING DOLPHIN ATHINA, owned by Aegean Flying Dolphins since 2010, and deployed on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri line since 2011, seen heading towards her docking spot in Piraeus.

A view of the SUPERFAST XII of Superfast Ferries, which was on the Piraeus-Syros-Amorgos-Patmos-Leros-Kalymnos-Kos-Rhodes line for the third straight summer.

The ship's future will be determined in the next few days, as the Greek Competition Commission will decide whether her owners, Attica Group, will be able to purchase Hellenic Seaways from Grimaldi Group. Should the transaction be approved, she will depart the Superfast Ferries fleet and join Grimaldi Lines, which would mean, unfortunately, the end of her career in the Greek coastal service.

As we headed even closer towards the exit, another ship was entering Piraeus. This time it was the small passenger boat GEORGIOS BROUFAS of Broufas Vessels, which operates on the Piraeus-Salamina line.

The GEORGIOS BROUFAS having just entered Piraeus.

The 2017 summer season marked her first on the Piraeus-Salamina line since 2015. In 2016, she had been deployed on the Ios-Sikinos-Folegandros line on the Cyclades, though this service ended up lasting just one season. She had previously spent her entire career since 1997 (the year she was built) on the Piraeus-Salamina line.

The GEORGIOS BROUFAS heading towards her docking spot in Piraeus.

We then went on to exit the port, whereupon I spotted the SUPER JET leaving the port at full-speed.

The SUPER JET beginning to head towards her first destination, Serifos.

The SUPER JET seen near the Attica coast near Piraeus.

The SUPER JET heading towards Serifos.

Another view of the SUPER JET heading towards Serifos at full-speed.