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  • Writer's pictureAlexandros Vrailas

SUPERFERRY Tribute and Moments of Trip

Trip: 14 June 2018. From Rafina to Ios, via Andros, Tinos, Mykonos and Paros, with the SUPERFERRY of Golden Star Ferries.

The SUPERFERRY seen leaving Mykonos a few days after my trip with her.

The conventional ferry SUPERFERRY was built in Japan in 1995. She was initially known as the KOGANE MARU of the Japanese company Sado Kisen, and she was deployed on the Naoetsu-Ogi line, which connects the two Japanese islands of Honshu (Japan's 'main' island) and Sado, where her initial owners are based. She had one sister ship, the OKESA MARU (built two years before her), which still operates for Sado Kisen to date. She had an extremely successful stint there, as she was a very modern, comfortable and reliable ferry operating throughout both day and night. After spending twenty years on the line, she was replaced by a newly-built high speed ferry known as the AKANE. As a result, she was sold in 2015 to a Greek company, namely the Andros-based Golden Star Ferries.

This company has been one of Greece's most promising coastal service companies, as it has experienced an impressive growth in recent years. It was founded in 2010 by the brothers Georgios and Dimitris Stefanou, two shipowners that originate from the island of Andros and who have had experience in shipping through the freight company Bright Navigation. Golden Star Ferries had its first breakthrough in the Greek coastal service by acquiring the legendary SUPERFERRY II of Blue Star Ferries in order to extend her career on her highly-acclaimed service, namely the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line. She was delivered in 2011 and resumed her service on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos line. As her service continued to be extremely successful despite strong competition, the company decided to expand its fleet by initially deciding to buy another ship from Sado Kisen, namely the 1988-built OSADO MARU in 2013, with a planned delivery to Greece in 2014 and a conversion that would be completed in 2015. Sado Kisen agreed to sell the ship to Golden Star Ferries, but when the time came for them to take over the ship in Japan, the two owners were amazed by her younger fleetmate, the KOGANE MARU, and thought that she would be more efficient for service on the Cyclades. Hence, as the KOGANE MARU was supposed to depart the fleet of Sado Kisen in 2015, they decided to buy her, and proceeded to selling the OSADO MARU to the Indonesian company Sekawan Maju Sejahtera (where she now operates under the name SMS SAGITA). Despite initial reports suggesting that the ship would be converted in Portugal, she was instead converted in Perama throughout the whole of 2015, in order to enter service for her new owners in 2016.

She arrived in Perama under the provisional name GOLDEN FERRY, and underwent a major conversion which lasted almost a year, seeing completely renovated interior areas and improved passenger accommodation. She finally entered service in 2016, having been renamed SUPERFERRY and having been registered in Andros. She was deployed on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line that summer, operating alongside her new fleetmate, the SUPERFERRY II, which was serving the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos-Paros line. Her introduction to the Greek coastal service was immediately successful, and she was praised for her impressive amenities and outdoor areas, as well as for the professionalism and friendliness of her crew. In 2017 she was on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos line instead of the SUPERFERRY II. Success continued, and she was a key contributor to her company's nomination as the 'Passenger Line of the Year' that year at the popular Lloyd's List Greek Shipping Awards. 2017 also saw her company acquiring its third ship and first high speed craft, most specifically the SUPERRUNNER (the ex-SPEEDRUNNER IV of Aegean Speed Lines), which was deployed on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini line. Her service was also very successful, and she formed a fierce rivalry with the equally-successful TERA JET of Sea Jets. Due to the success of both companies on the Rafina-Cyclades service, competition became extremely strong (which was notably highlighted by price wars during the summer of 2017), and Golden Star Ferries sought to expand both its fleet and operations on the Cyclades and Crete, where Sea Jets also operates extremely successful connections from Heraklion and Rethymnon to the Cyclades. As a result, two new high speed craft were purchased in order to enter service during the 2018 summer season, while the SUPERFERRY and the SUPERFERRY II were to be deployed on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Ios-Santorini-Heraklion line, hence connecting Rafina with Crete for the first time in Greek coastal service history. Despite doubts and pessimism by the media, the service went quite well in its first summer, and the company hence cemented its place in both the Cyclades and Crete, despite the length of the line and the big amount of stops in different islands.

So this is a quick historical yet important background of the SUPERFERRY and Golden Star Ferries, as it provides the overall context of the reasons behind a trip which included stops in four islands before I could reach my final destination. Indeed, I was supposed to go to Ios in order to spend a one-week-long vacation stay on the Cyclades with university friends, with the two islands being Ios and Mykonos (more posts about my experience there will be pusblished in the upcoming months). I had just arrived in Greece two days prior to the trip, and I decided to do the trip from Athens to Ios in a less traditional way. Indeed, instead of leaving from Piraeus with a high speed craft, I chose to take the conventional ferry from Rafina, which is why I was able to travel with the SUPERFERRY. It was officially my first trip of the 2018 summer season in Greece, my first-ever trip with a ship owned by Golden Star Ferries, my first-ever trip from Rafina to another destination, and, finally, my first-ever trip on the Aegean Sea in which the Attica-based port of departure was not Piraeus.

I arrived from Athens to Rafina by taxi cab very early in the morning with my good friend, taxi driver Mr Dimitris. The SUPERFERRY was due to leave at 07:50 from the port for her first destination, Andros. The scenery upon my arrival in the port was the one that I had expected. Indeed, it was full of ships ready to depart for the Cyclades Islands during the day, with ferries from the various companies based in Rafina, such as Golden Star Ferries, Sea Jets, Fast Ferries, Hellenic Seaways, and more. Due to the competitive environment, all ships are to leave Rafina between 07:00 and 08:30, although no ships belonging to the same company can depart at the same time or within ten minutes between them. The port was obviously packed and the vehicles and passengers were patiently waiting to board any docked ship.

The ship's lower garage deck, usually filled with vehicles heading to the first three destinations (Andros, Tinos and Mykonos).

The ferry's reception desk right next to escalators transporting passengers from the entrance to the lounge area. As you can see it is quite small and painted in blue, which is the company's main colour. The script logo of Golden Star Ferries is hung up on the wall, over a nice wreath.

A view of the ship's deckplan.

The first passenger deck, Deck 5, features the ship's indoor lounge areas, which are all decorated with pictures from the islands served by the SUPERFERRY. This one is an aerial view of the main town of Andros, known as the Chora.

The intersection area of Deck 5, which leads to the forward lounge areas and to the staircase and the elevators that lead the passengers to the other decks.

The lounge area located there is the Chora (Andros) Lounge, as shown by this signpost. The Chora is, at it is the case with most Cyclades Islands, the main town and village, basically the island's 'capital'.

A view of the ship's floorplan. It states that Decks 5-7 include the passenger lounge areas, the aircraft-style seats, WC and bars. Deck 8 features the outdoor lounge area (namely the First Class Lounge area), the hospital cabin and the bridge. Deck 6 also features cabins.

The escalators connecting Deck 5 with the garage (which is part of Decks 3 and 4). The company's logo can again be seen hanging on the wall.

A view of the Chora (Andros) Lounge, which features many chairs and tables right next to the windows.

The aft section of the Chora (Andros) Lounge, which features a giant TV screen in the background.

At the opposite of the Chora (Andros) Lounge is the Naoussa (Paros) Lounge, named after Paros' well-known village, which is one of the prettiest on the Cyclades.

I quickly went to have a little look at Deck 6. Next the staircase leading me there, a black-and-white picture of the iconic Andros lighthouse and of the Church of Panagia Thalassini was seen attached to the wall.

A quick view of the Achla (Andros) First Class Lounge, which features nice white and red chairs and a bar in the back.

The signpost of the Achla (Andros) First Class Lounge. Achla is the name of one of Andros' prettiest and most popular beaches.

As one heads towards the stern section of Deck 6, they can see aircraft-style seats, all of which feature the logo of Golden Star Ferries.

And even further back is the Pyrgos (Tinos) Lounge, whose signpost is at the entrance of the room.

A view of the Pyrgos (Tinos) Lounge, which has several white chairs and tables and a small bar right next to the entrance.

The Pyrgos (Tinos) Lounge also features a few exhibits, such as Ancient Greek sculptures that were most likely made on the Cyclades.

Outside the Pyrgos (Tinos) Lounge is the outdoor area at the level of the stern. It is connected to Deck 7 through the ship's well-known wooden staircase, which underwent a particular refit during her conversion in Perama.

The aft section outdoor area, which also features several chairs and tables.

An extended view of the outdoor area, with a bar located in the middle (it was closed before the ship's departure, and is only operational while the ship is sailing).

Another view of the outdoor area. It notably has lounges, which is a rare feature found in a Greek ferry.

At the forward section of Deck 6 is the front section balcony, from which passengers have a full view of the ship from the bow's perspective. This balcony was already on the ship back when she was operating in Japan.

While heading upwards Deck 7 has, on both sides, two alleys for passengers to walk and sit while admiring the view of the sea. Here is the alley from the port side.

The Deck 7 outdoor alley seen on the starboard side. The accommodation block on this deck features cabins, used by the crew.

One the two visible lifeboats of the SUPERFERRY, which features the ship's name.

Finally, the highest point one can reach onboard the SUPERFERRY is Deck 8, which has a fully open outdoor area. The front section is where the bridge is located, alon with the ship's foremast. Behind them are seven wooden houses where pets traveling along with passengers are kept during the trip.

In the open deck is the helicopter landing area in case of emergency. It features the IMO number of the ship (9110016), printed in yellow characters.

A wider view of the open deck area found on Deck 8.

At the back of this fully open area is the ship's funnel, which is surrounded by lifeboats and life-rafts on both sides.

The funnel of the SUPERFERRY, painted in blue and bearing the gold star, which is the logo of Golden Star Ferries.

At the starboard side of the SUPERFERRY in Rafina was the high speed ferry PAROS JET of Sea Jets, which was also preparing for her morning departure.

The funnel of the PAROS JET, painted in dark blue and featuring the well-known logo of Sea Jets.

The PAROS JET seen in what was her fourth summer under Sea Jets, and her third consecutive season on the Rafina-Cyclades service. The summer of 2018 ultimately found her operating across all of the Aegean Sea, as she was her company's spare ship in case one of its other ferries would have a technical issue during the summer.

Right next to her, I spotted the high speed catamaran FLYINGCAT 4 of Hellenic Seaways departing Rafina.

The FLYINGCAT 4 seen during what was her twentieth summer operating in the Greek coastal service, and her fourteenth under Hellenic Seaways. In 2018, she was on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos-Ios-Sikinos-Folegandros line.

The summer of 2018 was the first one that the FLYINGCAT 4 spent on the Cyclades and from Rafina since 2015. Indeed, in 2016 and in 2017, she operated in Northern Greece, as she connected the Sporades Islands with Thessaloniki (and also Agios Konstantinos in 2016).

The FLYINGCAT 4 departing Rafina and heading towards Tinos.

The FLYINGCAT 4 seen heading towards Tinos at dawn.

A view of the port of Rafina, which features numerous travel agencies right next to the main dock.

The PAROS JET seen ready to depart. Even though she has been in Greece since 2015, this day marked the first time that I got to see her in front of me.

Just after the FLYINGCAT 4 left Rafina, another high speed craft could be seen departing the port. This time, it was one of the SUPERFERRY's fleetmates, the high speed ferry SUPERRUNNER.

The SUPPERRUNNER, previously known as the SPEEDRUNNER IV of Aegean Speed Lines (for whom she operated between 2009 and 2016), seen leaving the port of Rafina.

The SUPERRUNNER seen as she leaves Rafina. The summer of 2018 was her second one with Golden Star Ferries, and she once again spent it on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini line.

The SUPERRUNNER seen leaving Rafina. She was the first high speed craft bought by Golden star Ferries. Two more have followed since, although they only transport passengers. The first one is the trimaran SUPERSPEED, which was deployed on the Thessaloniki-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos line in 2018, hence replacing the FLYINGCAT 4 which returned to the Cyclades. The second one is the high speed catamaran SUPERCAT, which is still being prepared in Perama and Salamina.

The SUPERRUNNER leaving Rafina in order to head towards Tinos, which was her first destination.

The SUPERRUNNER seen heading towards Tinos.

The SUPERRUNNER seen leaving Rafina at dawn. Since arriving in Greece in 2009, she has spent all her seasons on the Cyclades (except for the summer of 2013, during which she was laid-up in the Elefsina Bay).

The SUPERRUNNER heading towards Tinos, as seen by her fleetmate.

On the port side of the SUPERFERRY was one of her competitors, namely the conventional ferry EKATERINI P of Fast Ferries. This is one of her two funnels, which display the letter 'Π', which is the Greek initial of her owners, the Panagiotakis family.

Right next to the EKATERINI P was one of her fleetmates, the FAST FERRIES ANDROS, which was seen leaving Rafina as well.

The FAST FERRIES ANDROS seen leaving Rafina at dawn. Just like the SUPERFERRY, she was also built in Japan, and she spent the start of her career there before heading to Greece.

The FAST FERRIES ANDROS seen heading towards Andros. This summer was her fourth one under her owners, who acquired her in 2015 from the Kefalonia-based Strintzis Ferries. She was owned by the latter from 2003 to 2015, and operated for them on the Ionian Sea as the EPTANISOS.

A view of the funnel of the FAST FERRIES ANDROS, which also features the letter 'Π'. The funnel's shape is one of the most recognisable in the Greek coastal service. Although she had it since the start of her career in Japan, Strintzis Ferries increased its height and width during the ship's conversion in Perama back in 2003.

Another view of the PAROS JET, as she is also ready to leave the port of Rafina. She was deployed on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos line alongside the TERA JET for the month of June. She had previously operated on the same line alongside the flagship of Sea Jets during the 2017 season, and both high speed ferries were extremely successful there. They were therefore considered to be major threats by Golden Star Ferries, although the latter also responded to the competition quite effectively with the deployment of its three ships from Rafina.

The PAROS JET seen leaving Rafina for Tinos. Before arriving in Greece in 2015, she was known as the CORSICA EXPRESS SECONDA of the French-Italian company Corsica Ferries-Sardinia Ferries, for whom she mainly operated on the Ligurian Sea. Apart from her debut season in 1996, during which she served the Nice-Bastia line, she connected mainland Italy with Corsica before her sale to Sea Jets in 2015.

The PAROS JET seen departing Rafina.

The PAROS JET seen leaving right after the FAST FERRIES ANDROS and the SUPERRUNNER (her main competitor). It is fair to say that the Golden Star Ferries-Sea Jets rivalry from Rafina to the Cyclades is impressive from a shipping enthusiast's point of view.

Next to the EKATERINI P, I was able to see was the major threat of Golden Star Ferries in Rafina, namely the high speed ferry TERA JET of Sea Jets. Here is her funnel, which also features the logo of Sea Jets.

A view of the Southern coast of Rafina.

With the SUPERFERRY now due to depart, I spotted another ferry, athough it was the only one arriving at the port of Rafina, as all the other ones were leaving. That ship was another Japanese-built ferry, and more specifically the EVIA STAR of Geraistos NE, which operates on the Rafina-Marmari line. Marmari is a port located at the Southern part of the island of Evoia, on the Petalioi Gulf.

The EVIA STAR was initially a Ro-Ro carrier in Japan, and she was converted into a passenger ferry in 2000, following her purchase by Geraistos NE. She was operating on the Rafina-Marmari line for the eighteenth straight summer.

The EVIA STAR seen approaching the port of Rafina. She operates on the Rafina-Marmari line alongside the PANORAMA of Panorama Shipping, which has been operating there since late 2011.

The EVIA STAR preparing to maneuver in Rafina.

The EVIA STAR seen preparing to undergo her maneuvering procedure in Rafina.

The EVIA STAR ready to maneuver in Rafina.

The EVIA STAR maneuvering in Rafina, as the SUPERFERRY prepares to depart.

The EVIA STAR seen maneuvering in Rafina.

The EKATERINI P seen next to the SUPERFERRY as the latter departs and begins her trip.

The impressive TERA JET, which was however resting that day as she did not have any planned trips.

The TERA JET seen during what was her second season in a row in Rafina. However, in 2018, she also operated in Andros, in addition to Tinos, Mykonos, Paros and Naxos. She was therefore on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos line.

Another view of the EKATERINI P, which was the last ship due to depart from Rafina.

The TERA JET resting in Rafina.