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  • Writer's pictureAlexandros Vrailas

FAST FERRIES ANDROS Tribute and Moments of Trip

Trip: 30 July 2021. From Tinos to Rafina, via Andros, with the FAST FERRIES ANDROS of Fast Ferries.

The convetional ferry FAST FERRIES ANDROS was built in Japan in 1989. She began service as the SHINKO MARU for the company Nippon Kaiun, being deployed on the Kobe-Takamatsu line. She was sold in 2000 to the Taiwanese company King Fung Ma and she was renamed KING HUNG. After staying there for three years, she was bought in 2003 by the newly-established Greek company Strintzis Ferries. The latter had been established as a successor company of the historic Strintzis Lines, which operated from 1960 to 2000 with great success. The company was formed by the Kefalonia-based Strintzis family, and went on to become one of the most acclaimed companies in the history of the Greek coastal service, having introduced some of the most famous Greek ferries on the Ionian Sea, on the Adriatic Sea and later on the Aegean Sea. While they were set to further enhance their presence on all these areas with the impending delivery of some of the most modern cruiseferries and Ro-Pax ferries at the turn of the century, they were taken over by competitor Attica Group (which managed Superfast Ferries). Therefore, the Strintzis Lines brandname disappeared as the resulting new company became Blue Star Ferries. Aiming to re-establish the Strintzis brandname, some members of the Strintzis family formed a new company in 2003, with the intention of operating their ships on the Ionian Sea, just like Strintzis Lines had done so at the start of its operations. The new company was named Strintzis Ferries, and for that purpose the KING HUNG was purchased. She was converted in Perama, and was renamed EPTANISOS, hence taking the same name as the former legendary ferry of Strintzis Lines, which had operated for the company from 1984 until 2000. The new EPTANISOS began service on the Ionian Sea, on the Kyllini-Kefalonia line, during the 2003 season, and provided excellent service despite strong competition against the Ionian Ferries joint venture (which included Tyrogalas Ferries, Zante Ferries and ANEZ). The following year, Strintzis Ferries expanded its fleet by buying the KEFALONIA of Blue Star Ferries, which had previously operated for Strintzis Lines from 1995 to 2000. They kept her on the same line where she had been successfully operating since arriving in Greece in 1995, namely the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line. In 2011, the EPTANISOS was deployed the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line, while the KEFALONIA was sent to the Kyllini-Kefalonia line. Strintzis Ferries however ceased operations in 2012, due to the negative impact of the Greek financial crisis, and both the EPTANISOS and the KEFALONIA were laid-up in Drapetsona, the former right after having completed the 2012 season the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line. While the KEFALONIA was sold to newly-established company Kefalonian Lines in 2013 (for whom she operated until 2018, when she was bought by her current owners, Levante Ferries), the EPTANISOS attempted a comeback on the Ionian Sea, but this failed, resulting in her being laid-up in the Elefsina Bay from 2013 to 2015. Fortunately for her, she finally got a chance to operate again in Greece, as she was sold to Fast Ferries in 2015.

The new owners of the EPTANISOS, owned by the Panagiotakis family (which also owns a well-known shipyard in Salamina), has had a lengthy history in the Greek coastal service. They first began operations in 1974, when they introduced a newly-built landing craft, the THEOLOGOS P (named after Theologos Panagiotakis), on the Oropos-Eretria line on the South Evoian Gulf. Just a year later, they deployed another newly-built landing craft, the EKATERINI P, on the Igoumenitsa-Corfu line on the Ionian Sea. This introduction turned out to be successful, and the company eventually cemented its operations in Corfu, by also bringing the THEOLOGOS P to operate alongside the EKATERINI P on the Igoumenitsa-Corfu line in 1979. The ship operated there until 1984, when she was sold to a Kuwaiti company. However, she was replaced by another newly-built landing craft, also named THEOLOGOS P, in 1985. They also introduced another newly-built landing craft, the PLATYTERA, in 1981. As the company continued to be very successful with their two landing craft in the 1980s and 1990s, they sold the original EKATERINI P in 1999 to now-defunct Greek company Ifigeneia NE (she later became the KONSTANTINOS G of Costar Lines and then of NEL Lines, and is now operating for Equatorial Guinean company Somagec as the ELOBEY XII), and replaced her by a conventional ferry from Japan, the ROKKŌ MARU of Kansai Kisen, which succeeded her as the new EKATERINI P on the Igoumenitsa-Corfu line. Following this successful introduction, the company went on to buy another conventional ferry from Japan in 2003. Indeed, it was the laid-up FERRY EXPRESS of Awaji Ferry Boat Company (a sister ship of the AGIA THEODORA of Kerkyra Lines, which also operates on the Igoumenitsa-Corfu line), which was renamed PLATITERA and replaced the original PLATYTERA, which was sold to Thassos Ferries, being renamed PLATYTERA THASSOU and being deployed on the Kavala-Thassos line. The new PLATITERA eventually stayed with the company for just four years, as she was sold in 2007 to Italian company Medmar, for whom she still operates to date as the MARIA BUONO on the Pozzuoli-Ischia line. Moreover, in 2005, the company sold the second THEOLOGOS P to Thassos Ferries, where she reunited with the PLATYTERA THASSOU, as she herself was renamed PANAGIA THASSOU and began service on the Kavala-Thassos line on the Northeast Aegean Sea, where she still operates to date. In 2006, the company made a major transaction, namely the acquisition of the Japanese-built FERRY KŌCHI of Osaka-Kōchi Tokkyu Ferry, which had been laid-up in Osaka for over a year. They converted her in Perama for one year, during which she became the third ship of the company to be named THEOLOGOS P. Instead of entering the Ionian Sea, however, she was deployed on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line in 2007, hence making it the first time that Fast Ferries operated on the Cyclades. Her introduction proved to be a massive success, and eventually Fast Ferries went on to attract several new passengers as well many hauliers that transport goods from Athens to the Cyclades. The success of the service was such, that the company decided to shift its operations there beginning in 2012, whereupon they introduced the EKATERINI P on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line as a second ship alongside the THEOLOGOS P. As their performances from Rafina to the Cyclades continued to be very successful (despite the Greek financial crisis) and due to rising competition by companies such as Golden Star Ferries (which began operations on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos line in 2011 with the SUPERFERRY II, formerly a ship of Strintzis Lines and of Blue Star Ferries, and considered by many to be the greatest ferry in the history of the Greek coastal service), Blue Star Ferries, Hellenic Seaways and the rapidly-emerging Sea Jets, Fast Ferries decided to further enhance its presence on the Rafina-Cyclades service by acquiring a third ferry in 2015.

To that end, the EPTANISOS was renamed FAST FERRIES ANDROS, was significantly refurbished in Elefsina, and was deployed on the Rafina-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos line for the summer. After the high season she was deployed on her company's traditional service, on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line, where she went on to become a very successful ship. She partnered up with the THEOLOGOS P beginning in 2016, whereas the EKATERINI P was introduced on a new service, this being the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos line. After the 2017 season, she was chartered to Blue Star Ferries, being deployed on the Piraeus-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos line as a replacement for the BLUE STAR NAXOS, which had to replace her fleetmate, the BLUE STAR PATMOS, which was undergoing repairs after she had grounded off in Ios in August 2017. After serving there line for four months, she returned to the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line. In 2021 her service was extended to Paros, and therefore she was on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros line.

The FAST FERRIES ANDROS has become one of the most valuable assets of her company, and ultimately her introduction to the Aegean Sea was seen as a success by many, and, for the ship herself, a nice rebirth story. Just like all ships of Fast Ferries, she provides a very reliable service, always arrives in ports on time, and has very nice passenger amenities combined with a relatively spacious garage. These attributes have helped her establish herself as one of the key weapons of Fast Ferries, against tough competitors such as Golden Star Ferries, Sea Jets and Hellenic Seaways. She has been served as the main ship departing Rafina for the Cyclades in the morning, whereas the THEOLOGOS P usually performs the afternoon service. In addition, the FAST FERRIES ANDROS has also performed multiple local trips from Rafina to her namesake island during summer evenings, as a result of the increased demand for service during that specific time of the day.

The FAST FERRIES ANDROS seen resting in the port of Tinos, two days before my trip with her.

After having spent four days in the beautiful island of Tinos with my friends from my exchange semester in Beijing, it was now time for us to head back to Athens. The afternoon trip with the FAST FERRIES ANDROS from Tinos to Rafina was the most convenient for us, hence this gave me the opportunity to travel with the ship for the first time in my life. This was quite an exciting moment, as I would finally be traveling onboard a ferry that I saw several times during my childhood. Indeed, I saw her frequently in the port of Kyllini during the 2000s, back when she was still operating as the EPTANISOS. However, I had never had the chance to travel with her, as the first time that I ever went to Kefalonia was during the summer of 2014, hence long after Strintzis Ferries ceased operations. This would be my second trip onboard a ship of Fast Ferries, after having already traveled with the THEOLOGOS P from Rafina to Andros almost a year prior, more specifically on 15 August 2020. It was also my second-ever trip from an island of the Cyclades to Rafina, with the first one having been with the SUPERFERRY II, which had taken me from Andros to Rafina on 18 August 2020.

Before the FAST FERRIES ANDROS was due to arrive, I saw the BLUE STAR PAROS of Blue Star Ferries heading towards the port of Tinos. She was sailing from Mykonos, where she had previously docked.

The BLUE STAR PAROS seen maneuvering in Tinos. She operates on the Piraeus-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos line, which she has served exclusively since 2020. Before that, she spent the summers of 2018 and of 2019 on the Piraeus-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos-Ikaria-Fournoi-Samos line.

The BLUE STAR PAROS seen maneuvering in the port of Tinos. She was built in 2002, being delivered to Blue Star Ferries alongside her sister ship, the BLUE STAR NAXOS. Both ships have established themselves as two of the most acclaimed ferries on the Cyclades, on which they have been operating loyally and with much efficiency for almost two decades.

The BLUE STAR PAROS seen as she undergoes her maneuvering procedure in Tinos. I have traveled with her once, back when I was heading from Mykonos to Piraeus via Tinos and Syros on 20 June 2018.

The BLUE STAR PAROS completing her maneuvering procedure and preparing to dock in the port of Tinos.

The BLUE STAR PAROS seen as she is about to dock in Tinos.

While the BLUE STAR PAROS was docking in Tinos, I then got to see the FAST FERRIES ANDROS which was also arriving from Mykonos.

The BLUE STAR PAROS having just docked in Tinos, while the FAST FERRIES ANDROS is approaching the port.

The FAST FERRIES ANDROS seen arriving in Tinos, in what was her seventh season under Fast Ferries, and her first summer on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros line.

The FAST FERRIES ANDROS seen approaching the port of Tinos, right before I went on to travel with her for the first time in my life.

The FAST FERRIES ANDROS seen maneuvering in Tinos

The FAST FERRIES ANDROS seen arriving in Tinos. Among the four ships that currently are part of the fleet of Fast Ferries, she was the third one to join the company. The most recent member of the fleet is the high speed ferry THUNDER, which became the first ship of her type to be owned by the company. She was bought in 2019, and made her debut during the summer of 2021, being deployed on the Piraeus-Syros-Mykonos-Naxos line. This marked the first time that the company began operations from the port of Piraeus.

The FAST FERRIES ANDROS seen undergoing her maneuvering procedure in the port of Tinos. She had arrived at 13:50, and was due to leave for Andros at 14:00.

While the FAST FERRIES ANDROS was docking in the port of Tinos, the BLUE STAR PAROS began to leave in order to make her way towards Syros.

The BLUE STAR PAROS seen leaving Tinos in order to head to Syros, before making her way back to Piraeus.

The FAST FERRIES ANDROS seen having docked in Tinos, right before our embarkation.

A view of the ship's main garage, which is large enough to accommodate 280 vehicles.

Another view of the garage of the FAST FERRIES ANDROS, which altogether has 7 lanes. There is also an upper deck which is accessible to vehicles, on Deck 5. This picture as well as that above show the garage of Deck 3.

Upon entering the garage of the FAST FERRIES ANDROS in Deck 3, an escalator leads to Deck 6, which, along with Deck 7, is dedicated to the passenger areas. Here is the reception desk of the ship, which features the ship's name, company logo, as well as religious icons on the right corner.

A view of the ship's floorplan, which is seen on Deck 6. It shows passengers the way towards Deck 3 and Deck 5, where main garage and the upper garage are located, respectively. Deck 7 is dedicated to the ship's outdoor areas, including the notable open deck which has been praised by passengers.

A view of the passenger lounge area at the aft section of Deck 6 of the FAST FERRIES ANDROS, which features several comfortable aircraft-style seats.

The passenger lounge area of the aft section of Deck 6 of the FAST FERRIES ANDROS, which is mainly composed of grey aircraft-style seats.

Towards the middle section of Deck 6, one may find an open lounge area, featuring quartets of grey chairs surrounding small circular tables, and a few black and grey lounge. The area also features the ship's bar, which was renovated during the ship's conversion prior to the start of her services under Fast Ferries.

A view of the onboard retail store of the FAST FERRIES ANDROS, which is located in Deck 6. It primarily sells fashion products, in particular summer bags.

The passenger lounge area seen in the front section of Deck 6 of the FAST FERRIES ANDROS, which features more chairs, as well as a large television screen in the middle of the area.

A view of the VIP Lounge area, which features comfortable lounge chairs that look towards the ship's bow.

After having seen Deck 6, I headed to Deck 7, which features the ship's passenger outdoor areas. This is a view of the main sun deck, which features several plastic chairs, both movable ones as well rows of four chairs connected to the floor.

A further view of the outdoor sun deck on Deck 7 of the FAST FERRIES ANDROS.

Deck 7 also features a bar for passengers, which is located towards the middle section of the ship.

Another view of the outdoor sun deck, which is covered with glass windows, and the ceiling somehow makes it look like a house.

A view of the port side alley in Deck 7, which leads from the outdoor sun deck to the ship's bridge. Along the way, one can find several chairs which are facing towards the sea.

Another view of the port side alley, which also features a lifeboat, as well as more chairs facing both towards the sea and towards the bridge.

A view of Deck 5, which has the ship's upper garage deck. It was full of vehicles, and most notably lorries and vans. The stern section also features the ship's mooring equipment.

At exactly 14:00, the FAST FERRIES ANDROS left Tinos in order to begin heading to Andros, and then to Rafina. She would make the first part of the trip in 1.5 hours, while the second part would last 2.5 hours. Here is a view of Deck 5, fully loaded with vehicles, as seen from Deck 7, where I remained for the duration of the trip.

At exactly 15:30, the FAST FERRIES ANDROS had arrived in Andros, her namesake island. The latter's port is located in the small village of Gavrion.

The pier in the port of Gavrion in Andros, seen as the FAST FERRIES ANDROS is undergoing her maneuvering procedure.

While the FAST FERRIES ANDROS immediately departed Andros and began to head towards Rafina, I saw the SUPERFERRY of Golden Star Ferries making her way toward the island, after having left Tinos.

The SUPERFERRY, one of the main competitors of the FAST FERRIES ANDROS, seen making her towards Andros. Also built in Japan (in 1995), she was bought in 2015 by Golden Star Ferries, in the same year during which the FAST FERRIES ANDROS was acquired by Fast Ferries. She made her debut in 2016, on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line, in the same year during which the FAST FERRIES ANDROS was introduced on that line as well.

A view of the SUPERFERRY, as she heads towards Andros. Since 2020, her service has been restricted to the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line, where she spent her debut summer in 2016. In 2017 she was inserted on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos line, while in 2018 she operated, alongside the SUPERFERRY II, on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Ios-Santorini-Heraklion line, where they also stayed during the 2019 season, although they were on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Santorini-Heraklion line.

The SUPERFERRY seen heading to Andros, during her sixth summer under Golden Star Ferries. I traveled with her on 14 June 2018, while heading from Rafina to Ios, back when she was linking Rafina with the Cyclades and Crete.

About two hours after having left Andros, we were now on the Petalioi Gulf and a few nautical miles away from Rafina. On the way towards the port, I saw the veteran conventional ferry EVIA STAR of Geraistos NE. She was also built in Japan, in 1980, and arrived in Greece in 2000. She was deployed on the Rafina-Marmari-Karystos line in 2001, while she has been solely serving the Rafina-Marmari line since 2010.

The EVIA STAR seen sailing towards Marmari, after having left Rafina, in what was her twentieth season under Geraistos NE.

The EVIA STAR seen as she sails towards the port of Marmari.

At around 17:45, 15 minutes prior to our arrival in Rafina, I saw the fleetmate of the FAST FERRIES ANDROS, the THEOLOGOS P, having departed the port and heading towards Andros.

The THEOLOGOS P seen sailing from Rafina to Andros. Just like it is the case for all conventional ferries of Fast Ferries, she was built in Japan in 2000, and was bought by the company in 2006. Her entry to service in 2007 on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line proved to be a major success, and the catalyst for the expansion of Fast Ferries on the Cyclades beginning in 2012. Almost 15 years after she began service, her owners became one of the most appreciated companies of the Aegean Sea, and currently have a fleet of four ships successfully operating on the Cyclades, from both Rafina and Piraeus.

The THEOLOGOS P seen as she has left Rafina in order to make her way towards Andros. This was her fifteenth season on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line, while it is noteworthy to state that she served the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos line in 2017, alongside the EKATERINI P.

The THEOLOGOS P, the flagship of Fast Ferries, seen sailing from Rafina to Andros, as part of her usual afternoon service to the Cyclades.

Crossing the THEOLOGOS P on the Petalioi Gulf, as she sails to Andros.

The THEOLOGOS P seen as she heads to Andros. As stated at the start of this post, she is the third ship in the history of the company to bear this name.

The THEOLOGOS P seen as she is passing by us on the Petalioi Gulf, while we head to Rafina.

One last view of the great THEOLOGOS P, which is heading to Andros.

At exactly 18:00, we had arrived in Rafina, and this therefore marked the end of the trip. It was very smooth and calm, and the ship had very comfortable areas, including in the outdoor sun deck where I stayed for the duration of the journey. And of course, Fast Ferries once again proved its reliability with regards to punctuality.

One last view of the FAST FERRIES ANDROS in Rafina, as we then headed to the bus station in order to make our way back to Athens.

This therefore concludes my Tribute Post, and also marks the end of a very nice chapter within my summer stay in Greece in 2021, as I got to visit two beautiful islands, namely Ios and Tinos. I had the chance to see many ships that operate on the Cyclades, and took several precious pictures that gave a nice overview of how important the ferry service is to both islands. And I was happy to conclude this trip by traveling with one of the most appreciated ships of the Cyclades, the reliable veteran ferry FAST FERRIES ANDROS, which has become a key part of the success of Fast Ferries on the Aegean Sea. She is not as luxurious or impressive as other ships of the Greek coastal service, but she provides just the right amenities for passengers, with her overall simplicity being the main factor for the great services that she operates. She has a very decent garage and a very nice outdoor area, and this has made trips onboard her a pleasant experience for passengers. I do hope she stays on the Cyclades in the long term, even as she is soon turning 33 years old, as I believe that she still has much to offer to her company, which has silently become a dominant force on the Cyclades and has four excellent ships ready to face off strong competitors. Ultimately, this kind of competition is what the Greek coastal service requires, as it gives the company the chance to deploy their best ships and to provide the best possible services, only for the benefit of passengers, tourists and the local communities.

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