Goodbye IONIAN SKY
The IONIAN SKY laid-up in Salamina during the summer of 2019, which happened to be the last one she spent in Greece as she headed for scrap just six months later.
Just two months after writing my Blog post about the FLYING DOLPHIN XVIII of Hellenic Seaways, I now find myself writing another Ship Farewell Tribute post, as the veteran Ro-Pax ferry IONIAN SKY of Agoudimos Lines and formerly under charter to NEL Lines departed Salamina, where she had been laid-up since 2013, for the Turkish coastal city of Aliağa in order to be scrapped. This therefore ended the 46-year-long career of this particular ferry, which was built in 1974 in Japan and spent her first 24 years there, before spending the remaining 22 years of her life In Greece, although the last seven years saw her inactive due to her owners' severe financial difficulties which led to their (and the ship's) eventual downfall.
The IONIAN SKY, which saw the majority of her Greek stint on the Adriatic Sea, was a classic Japanese-built ferry which became one of the many that went on to spend the second part of their career from the 'Land of the Rising Sun' to the Greek coastal service. She was bought by the historic Greek company Strintzis Lines in order to provide a fast service between Italy and Greece. Following a successful career in Japan, she did not really undergo an extensive conversion like that of many of her compatriots which were acquired by Greek companies, and this did not necessarily make her superior to the newly-built cruiseferries that soared the Adriatic Sea market in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Despite this, she performed loyally for Strintzis Lines as the IONIAN VICTORY, before the latter company was taken over by Attica Group in 2000, resulting in the creation of the new company Blue Star Ferries. Renamed BLUE SKY, the ship continued to serve the Adriatic Sea until her owners sought to renew their fleet by selling most of the older ferries that they owned at the time. Plagued by several engine failures during her stint with Blue Star Ferries, she then joined Agoudimos Lines, a traditional company with many years of service on both the Adriatic Sea and the Aegean Sea, in 2004. Renamed IONIAN SKY, she continued to provide reliable service on the Adriatic Sea until the early 2010s, when the Greek financial crisis began to hit the ferry industry. As a result, her owners started to become very vulnerable from a financial point of view, and she was eventually arrested by her crew following the completion of the 2012 season. She then managed to look for an opportunity to redeem herself by being chartered by NEL Lines for service on the Northeast Aegean Sea in 2013. Her stint there however was a failure, as she suffered from multiple engine troubles which ended her season and her charter prematurely. Combined with NEL Lines' economic difficulties and Agoudimos Lines shutting down operations in late 2013, the IONIAN SKY was laid-up in Salamina, where she proceeded to remain, under a very bad condition, until four days ago. Some comeback attempts did occur, however none of them came to fruition, and, as a result, the ship was forced to end her career by being demolished in Turkey.
Despite her downfall during the 2010s, the ship is still remembered fondly by passengers who traveled with her on the Adriatic Sea, and she did experience some successful summers with all three owners under whom she operated. While she never became one of the best ships to ever operate on the Adriatic Sea, and was nowhere near the standards of the younger cruiseferries against which she had to compete, she still had some bright moments, and would still be a useful ferry on any long-distance service in Greece if she had been managed by a more prosperous shipping company.
Just like all Ship Farewell Tribute posts that I have done in the past, this Blog post covers the entire history of the IONIAN SKY, from her career in Japan until her long lay-up in Salamina. Personally, I was never able to see and photograph the ship during the period when she was still active. Instead, I photographed her for the first and only time on 28 July 2019, while I was heading from Perama to Salamina with the GLYKOFILOUSA VIII of Panagia Glykofilousa NE. It happened to be during her last summer of lay-up, and she continued to be seen languishing in the small port of Ambelakia. I never got the chance to travel with her either, as I have not been a frequent Adriatic Sea passenger. Despite this, I still admired this ship and was upset when I heard that her career was nearing the end. This post will hence help the readers see what the ship's true career was, and not only base it on the three pictures I took of her while she was laid-up (which will be shown towards the end of this post).
The IONIAN SKY was built in Japan in 1974, in the Hayashikane Zosen Shipyard in Shimonoseki, as the SAPPORO MARU for the Japanese company Nihon Enkai Ferry. The latter had been established in 1970 in order to connect the capital city, Tokyo, with Matsusaka and the island of Hokkaido, as well as Osaka with the island of Kyushu. They notably inaugurated the new Tokyo-Tomakomai line in 1972, by deploying two newly-built sister ships connecting the Japanese capital with Tomakomai, the largest city of the Iburi Subprefecture located in the Hokkaido Prefecture, through the North Pacific Ocean (located along the Eastern coasts of the country). These two ships were the ERIMO MARU and the SHIRETOKO MARU, which later became the legendary KING MINOS and N. KAZANTZAKIS of the Greek company Minoan Lines, from 1987 to 2002 and from 1989 to 2001, respectively. The successful entry of both sister ships prompted Nihon Enkai Ferry to order a new ferry to operate alongside them. They were initially due to deploy the newly-built PEGASUS in 1973, but the latter instead joined Taiyō Ferry on the Osaka-Kanda line. She later became the famed APTERA of ANEK Lines, operating for them from 1985 to 2006.
As Nihon Enkai Ferry failed to operate the PEGASUS, they instead ordered another newly-built ferry, namely the SAPPORO MARU, which was due to be even faster than the ERIMO MARU and the SHIRETOKO MARU. Named after the city of Sapporo (which is the largest city in Hokkaido and the fifth largest city in Japan) and registered in Tokyo, she began service in 1974 on the Tokyo-Tomakomai line. Her service there was as successful as that of her two elder fleetmates, and she helped cement the presence of her company on the service between Honshu and Hokkaido. At the time of her entry to service, she was considered by many as one of the most luxurious ferries in Japan, as she became the first ship on the Tokyo-Tomakomai line to feature premium cabins and a swimming pool. She also maintained a regular speed of 22 knots, which made her one of the fastest ferries in Japan at the time. Following the increasing demand due to the success of the service, Nihon Enkai Ferry ordered two Ro-Ro carriers from a class of five sister ships which were being built in the same shipyard as the one where the SAPPORO MARU was built in Shimonoseki. The first ship was the TOMAKOMAI MARU, which was completed in 1975 and also entered service on the Tokyo-Tomakomai line. She also went on to operate in Greece later in her career, as she was bought in 1999 by Minoan Flying Dolphins, becoming the NAVE TRAILER and operating on the Corinth-Venice line on the Adriatic Sea. Her owners became Hellas Flying Dolphins in 2002 and were then rebranded as Hellenic Seaways in 2005, and in 2007 she was renamed HELLENIC TADER, and continued to operate until she was sold for scrap in 2013. The second ship was the TOKYO MARU, which also entered service on the Tokyo-Tomakomai line after her construction was completed in 1976. She also went on to operate Minoan Flying Dolphins/Hellas Flying Dolphins/Hellenic Seaways, as she joined her sister ship on the Corinth-Venice line as the CIELO TRAILER from 1999 to 2007 and then as the HELLENIC CARRIER from 2007 to 2010, being sold for scrap during the latter year. With five ships operating on the Tokyo-Tomakomai line (with all of them going on to be acquired by Greek companies later in their careers), Nihon Enkai Ferry had a very successful period during the 1970s, and managed to make the ferry industry in Japan even more popular and appreciated by passengers and freight operators.
The SAPPORO MARU seen in Tomakomai, during her first years of operations. Picture found on the book 'History of Japanese Car Ferries' and published on www.adriaticandaegeanferries.com.
A picture of the SAPPORO MARU in an advertisement card made by Nihon Enkai Ferry, whose logo can be seen below the ship. Picture published on www.simplonpc.co.uk.
The SAPPORO MARU continued to provide excellent service on the Tokyo-Tomakomai line for the following 11 years. In 1985, she had a change in service for the first time in her career, as she was transferred to the newly-launched Ōarai-Tomakomai line. She became the first-ever ship to serve it, and she appeared to be able to provide an alternative service to Tomakomai other than that of Tokyo. Indeed, Ōarai, located in the Ibaraki Prefecture, was a prominent town that was part of the Greater Tokyo Area, and had a more direct proximity with the North Pacific Ocean that allowed a quicker service towards ports on Hokkaido like Tomakomai. The SAPPORO MARU had a very successful stint in her new service, which today is considered to be one of the most important of the Japanese coastal service. Two years later, however, Nihon Enkai Ferry deployed the newly-built ferry ŌARAI MARU on the Ōarai-Tomakomai line. That ship, which was far larger than the SAPPORO MARU, had been built in order to serve more passengers and freight respectively. She also went on to operate in Greece, when she was chartered to NEL Lines between 2010 and 2012 as the COLOSSUS, operating on the Corinth-Venice line in 2010 and on the Piraeus-Kos-Rhodes line on the Dodecanese, before leaving the company in 2012. She was scrapped in 2013 at the age of 26, the year during which the SAPPORO MARU joined NEL Lines as the IONIAN SKY. As a result of the introduction of the ŌARAI MARU, the SAPPORO MARU returned to the Tokyo-Tomakomai line in 1987, covering the service left by the ERIMO MARU, which had been sold to Minoan Lines, becoming the KING MINOS and being initially inserted on the Adriatic Sea in 1988.
Another advertisement made by Nihon Enkai Ferry featuring the SAPPORO MARU while she is sailing during her stint under the company. Picture available from the collection of Marko Hänninen and published on www.faktaomfartyg.se.
Everything appeared to be going normally for the SAPPORO MARU on the Tokyo-Tomakomai line during the late 1980s. At the turn of the decade, however, Nihon Enkai Ferry was sold to the newly-established company Blue Highway Line, which was formed through a merger with the company Nippon Kosoku Ferry Company (also known as Japan Fast Ferry Company). The new company sought to continue operating the services of their predecessors between Honshu and Hokkaido. The SAPPORO MARU and the ŌARAI MARU therefore joined the company in 1990, while the TOKYO MARU and the TOMAKOMAI MARU were sold to the Japanese company Kawasaki Kinkai Kisen. Blue Highway Line continued the naming policy used by Nippon Kosoku Ferry Company, which consisted of all ships being named 'SUNFLOWER' followed by a number. This was however done by using the 'SUNFLOWER' prefix and then the name of a Japanese city. As a result, the SAPPORO MARU was renamed SUNFLOWER SAPPORO, while the ŌARAI MARU was renamed SUNFLOWER ŌARAI. Both ships continued to operate on their respective lines.
The SUNFLOWER SAPPORO seen with the well-known livery of Blue Highway Line (known as MOL Ferry since 2003), in a postcard made by her company. Picture published on www.adriaticandaegeanferries.com.
The SUNFLOWER SAPPORO seen in an advertisement of Blue Highway Line, as she sails on the North Pacific Ocean. Picture published on www.simplonpc.co.uk.
As the 1990s progressed, the SUNFLOWER SAPPORO began to show signs of aging and of being outdated. This, combined with the increasing demand for freight service on the Tokoyo-Tomakomai line and on the Ōarai-Tomakomai line, led Blue Highway Line to order a significant amount of large cruiseferries and Ro-Ro carriers that could have a much bigger passenger and vehicle capacity than the incumbent ferries. As a result, in 1997, the four-year-old cruiseferries SUNFLOWER KIRISHIMA and SUNFLOWER SATSUMA were inserted on the Tokyo-Tomakomai line, at the expense of the SUNFLOWER SAPPORO. The latter therefore left the line after 10 consecutive years of service, and 21 years altogether, as she had also operated there from 1974 to 1985. She was transferred to the Osaka-Shibushi line, where the SUNFLOWER KIRISHIMA and the SUNFLOWER SATSUMA were previously operating, thus connecting Honshu with the Kagoshima Prefecture on Kyushu via the Kanmon Straits. She was joined in this new service by the SUNFLOWER ERIMO (later the YONG XIA of the Chinese company Dalong Ferry, which was sold for scrap in 2019).
The SUNFLOWER SAPPORO began her new service on the Osaka-Shibushi line during the 1997 season. However, she stayed there for just one year. Indeed, as part of her company's ongoing fleet renewal plan, her service was taken over by the SUNFLOWER ŌARAI, as the latter had herself been replaced by the newly-built SUNFLOWER TSUKUBA on the Ōarai-Tomakomai line. The latter ship entered service there in 1998, and, since 2007, she has been known as the great ELYROS of ANEK Lines in Greece. As a result, the SUNFLOWER SAPPORO, now aged 24, no longer had a role within the plans of Blue Highway Line (which became MOL Ferry in 2003), and was therefore listed for sale.
Fortunately for the ship, she did not need to wait for a long time in order to find a new owner, as she was quickly sold to the Greek company Strintzis Lines in 1998. That company was one of the most historical operators in the Greek coastal service, having had an acclaimed service on the Ionian Sea, on the Adriatic Sea, on the Cyclades and on the Dodecanese. Founded by the legendary Strintzis family, which came from the island of Kefalonia on the Ionian Sea, the company began operations in 1960, by deploying the little ferry AGIOS GERASIMOS on the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line. Almost 30 years later, they found themselves with a very large fleet featuring some of the best ships the Greek coastal service has ever seen. Their initial success on the Ionian Sea with the AGIOS GERASIMOS and then with the legendary AINOS (later the HYDRA of Ventouris Ferries and then the AGIOS NEKTARIOS of Ventouris Lines) and the KEFALLINIA (later the EXPRESS PAROS of Amorgos Ferries-Katapoliani) prompted them to expand their services on the Adriatic Sea, going on to buy several ships which had very successful stints while connecting Greece with Italy, such as the first IONIAN STAR (operating for them from 1976 to 1990), the IONIAN GLORY (which operated for them from 1981 to 1988), the historic IONIAN SUN (1986-2000), the IONIAN FANTASY (1988-1994, later known as the IONIAN SEA, going on to operate on the Dodecanese first for Strintzis Lines, then as the DIMITRA for GA Ferries and finally as the LEROS for DANE Sea Line before being scrapped in 2001), and the legendary sister ships IONIAN GALAXY and IONIAN ISLAND (which also operated in Japan during the early stages of their careers). All these ships had a very successful career on the Adriatic Sea, and cemented Strintzis Lines' dominance and reputation as one of the most efficient shipping companies at the time. Further successes were noted on the Cyclades, with the iconic EPTANISOS (the former VALENCAY of the British conglomerate Sealink) having a legendary stint on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Syros line from 1984 to 1992, becoming one of the best ships to have ever operated from Rafina. Her successors, the SUPERFERRY and the SUPERFERRY II, brought further success, the latter in particular becoming one of the most acclaimed ferries in the history of the Greek coastal service. In 1995, the newly-built high speed catamaran SEA JET 1 was deployed on the Cyclades, while the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line experienced a revolution through the introduction the then-recently-acquired ferry KEFALONIA (formerly the VENUS of the Japanese company Higashi Nihon Ferry). By that time, however, competition on the Adriatic Sea had reached new heights, due to the newly-established company Superfast Ferries, managed by the acclaimed Pericles Panagopoulos of Attica Group, deploying two brand new and extremely fast cruiseferries, the SUPERFAST I and the SUPERFAST II, on the Patras-Ancona line. As their entry to service marked the start of a new era where speed and comfort were the essential components of the perfect trip on the Adriatic Sea, numerous operators began to suffer from the new competition. Only a few companies decided to imitate the new model introduced by Panagopoulos, with these being Minoan Lines, ANEK Lines and Strintzis Lines. In response to the introduction of the newly-built cruiseferries IKARUS PALACE and PASIPHAE PALACE by Minoan Lines on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Ancona line in 1997 and 1998, respectively, as well as that of the then-recently-converted Japanese-built sister ships KRITI I and KRITI II by ANEK Lines on the same line in 1997, Strintzis Lines bought two Japanese ferries with significant speed and vehicle capacity in order to deploy them as Ro-Pax ferries on the Adriatic Sea. These were the VARUNA of Higashi Nihon Ferry (built in 1987), and the SUNFLOWER SAPPORO. Both ships arrived in Perama in order to begin their respective conversions.
The SUNFLOWER SAPPORO left Japan for the last time in early 1998, and arrived in Greece, whereupon she was renamed IONIAN VICTORY. She therefore had the 'IONIAN' prefix used by most ships of Strintzis Lines. She was the second ship in the history of the company to be named IONIAN VICTORY, as the original one used to operate for Strintzis Lines on the Adriatic Sea from 1984-1986. She then had stints as the PALOMA for the now-defunct Greek companies Afroessa Lines (1986-1990) and Arkadia Lines (1990-1993), before ending her career in China as the JINH HU of Shantou Shipping between 1993 and 2004. The VARUNA was renamed SUPERFERRY HELLAS. Both ships were registered in Piraeus.
The IONIAN VICTORY seen undergoing her conversion in Perama in 1998. Her funnels were upgraded, as did her garage and her indoor lounge areas and cabins. Her windows and side alleys were also modified. Her swimming pool was removed as well. Picture taken by Antonis Molos and published on www.nautilia.gr.
During her conversion, the IONIAN VICTORY had all her areas improved to Adriatic Sea standards. However, as Strintzis Lines wanted to have her deployed as soon as possible, her refit was rather considered to have been done in a rush, and she therefore did not acquire any additional amenities. This became apparent when ships with wider lounge areas and with more cabins entered service, and the IONIAN VICTORY did not have enough of them for such a long service. Furthermore, her engines from Japan, which had been the same since she began operating in 1974, were not upgraded, which made her vulnerable from a technical point of view. She entered service in 1998 on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Ancona-Venice line, replacing the IONIAN GALAXY which was chartered to the Libyan company Libya National Maritime for the 1998 season. Her service during her first season received mixed reviews. Praised for her large garage (thus satisfying freight demand), she did not have the same luxurious amenities as the IONIAN GALAXY and her partner on the line that season, the IONIAN ISLAND. Furthermore, one of the main reasons why she was bought was because she was reportedly able to sail under an average speed of 22 knots, but this never happened during her spell in Greece, and her engines were one of her biggest weaknesses. She was therefore less preferred than the IONIAN ISLAND or by the ships of Superfast Ferries (notably the impressive sister ships SUPERFAST III and SUPERFAST IV, which were delivered in 1998), Minoan Lines and ANEK Lines.
The IONIAN VICTORY seen maneuvering in Igoumenitsa during her debut summer under Strintzis Lines in 1998. Just like all ships of the company, she bore its iconic dark blue livery. Picture taken by Ton Grootenboer and published on www.faktaomfartyg.se.
The IONIAN VICTORY seen resting in Patras, during her debut season under Strintzis Lines in 1998. It was also her first-ever summer operating in Greece. Picture taken by Michele Lulurgas and published on www.adriaticandaegeanferries.com.
Following the completion of the conversion of the SUPERFERRY HELLAS in 1999, the latter replaced the IONIAN VICTORY on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Ancona-Venice line, along with the returning IONIAN GALAXY. The IONIAN VICTORY was instead placed on the direct service on the Patras-Ancona line, without making any intermediate stops. She replaced the second IONIAN STAR (built in 1992, owned by Strintzis Lines from 1994 to 1999), which was sold to the French company Compagnie Méridionale de Navigation (also known as La Méridionale). There, she directly competed against the SUPERFAST III and the SUPERFAST IV of Superfast Ferries, and had an average spell. During that year, and ahead of the transition to the 21st century, Strintzis Lines reached the peak of their history, with continuous success on the Adriatic Sea, the Ionian Sea and the Aegean Sea. They had the IONIAN VICTORY on the Patras-Ancona line, the IONIAN GALAXY and the SUPERFERRY HELLAS on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Ancona-Venice line, the IONIAN ISLAND on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Bari line and the IONIAN BRIDGE (which had been acquired in 1997) on the shorter Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Brindisi line on the Adriatic Sea. On the Ionian Sea, they were extremely dominant on the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line with the KEFALONIA and on the Kyllini-Kefalonia line with the EPTANISOS and the IONIAN SUN. In the case of the Cyclades, the SUPERFERRY II and the SEA JET 1 continued their successful operations from Rafina. They were joined by the SEA JET 2, sister ship of the SEA JET 1, which had been initially operating as the MIRAGE on the Saronic Gulf under Strintzis Lines in 1998, before being renamed and deployed in Rafina as well. The SUPERFERRY was also available for the company on the Cyclades. Furthermore, in anticipation of the newly-built cruiseferries ordered by Superfast Ferries, ANEK Lines and Minoan Lines from 2000 to 2002, the company ordered five different cruiseferries. Two were due to enter service in 2001 on the Northeast Aegean Sea, one was to be deployed in 2000 on the Kyllini-Kefalonia line, and the other two, the largest ships ever ordered by Strintzis Lines, the SUPERFERRY ATLANTIC and the SUPERFAST PACIFIC, were to be deployed on the Patras-Ancona line in 2000 instead of the IONIAN VICTORY.
The IONIAN VICTORY seen docked in the port of Patras in 1999. Picture taken by Ton Grootenboer and published on www.faktaomfartyg.se.
Despite their continuous success and the incoming new ferries, Strintzis Lines unexpectedly saw their services end in 2000, during one of the most shocking changes in Greek coastal service history. Indeed, Attica Group, which oversaw Superfast Ferries, purchased the majority of the stakes in Strintzis Lines, hence absorbing them. While the majority of the Strintzis family joined the board of directors of Attica Group, the company had to end its operations, and this resulted in the creation of a new operator, namely Blue Star Ferries.
Ahead of the 2000 season, the newly-formed Blue Star Ferries carried on the plans introduced by their predecessors and remodeled some of the previous services in order to maintain a strong presence on the Adriatic Sea against ANEK Lines and Minoan Lines, as well as on the Ionian Sea and on the Cyclades. The first three newly-built ferries arrived that year. The first ship to arrive was the small day ferry BLUE STAR ITHAKI from South Korea, which was deployed on the Cyclades instead of the Kyllini-Kefalonia line where she had initially been set to operate. Her service there was acclaimed immediately, and she went on to become one of the best ferries of the Greek coastal service. The other two ferries were the SUPERFERRY ATLANTIC and the SUPERFERRY PACIFIC, which had been completed in The Netherlands as the BLUE STAR 1 and the BLUE STAR 2, respectively, with the former becoming the company's flagship. Both ships were deployed on the Patras-Brindisi-Ancona line in 2000, and then on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Ancona line in 2001. They also became very successful, but eventually the company preferred to have them on the Aegean Sea. Blue Star Ferries then decided to structure themselves under three different divisions, based on the different ships it owned. The three newly-built ferries operated for the core Blue Star Ferries brandname, while the SEA JET 1 and the SEA JET 2 joined the newly-formed Blue Star Jets division. The remaining ferries, with the exception of the EPTANISOS which was sold to Ventouris Ferries, joined the Blue Ferries division, which regrouped all the ferries previously operating under Strintzis Lines. The large majority of the ships were renamed, switching their 'IONIAN' prefix with a new 'BLUE' prefix. The SUPERFERRY II, the KEFALONIA and the IONIAN SUN kept their original names. The IONIAN GALAXY, the IONIAN ISLAND and the IONIAN BRIDGE were renamed BLUE GALAXY, BLUE ISLAND and BLUE BRIDGE, respectively. The SUPERFERRY was renamed BLUE AEGEAN, while the SUPERFERRY HELLAS was renamed BLUE HORIZON. Finally, the IONIAN VICTORY was renamed BLUE SKY. After being renamed, she was deployed on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Venice line for the 2000 season, hence teaming-up alongside the BLUE HORIZON. All other ships except for the BLUE GALAXY and the BLUE ISLAND remained in their same services, while the BLUE AEGEAN was inserted on the Piraeus-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos line.
The BLUE SKY seen in Venice in 2001, during her second season with Blue Star Ferries and the Blue Ferries division. Picture taken by Daniele Miglio and published on www.faktaomfartyg.se.
Ahead of the 2001 season, Blue Star Ferries decided that they would need to limit some of their services in the long term, in order to have a more modern fleet and focusing mostly on the Aegean Sea, where the BLUE STAR ITHAKI and the SUPERFERRY II continued to offer spectacular services. The Adriatic Sea was mostly reserved for the ships of Superfast Ferries, and the Ionian Sea would be abandoned. As a result, the 32-year-old IONIAN SUN was sold in 2001, while the aging BLUE ISLAND, BLUE GALAXY and BLUE AEGEAN departed the company in 2002. They were also followed by the SEA JET 1 that year, as Blue Star Ferries (and Attica Group in general) were not fond of high speed craft. The ship was sold to Aegean Jet Maritime and operated as the JET ONE for them, before joining newly-established company Sea Jets in 2004, for whom she still operates to date as the SUPER JET. The two cruiseferries that were supposed to enter service on the Northeast Aegean Sea in 2001 experienced problems with the Greek shipyards that were supposed to build them, and as a result they were sold to Minoan Flying Dolphins, which completed them only by the time they had rebranded themselves as Hellenic Seaways. The first one, the NISSOS MYKONOS, was completed in 2005, while the second one, the NISSOS CHIOS, entered service for the first time in 2007. Instead of these two ships, Blue Star Ferries instead ordered two sister ships of the BLUE STAR ITHAKI, the BLUE STAR NAXOS and the BLUE STAR PAROS, both of which entered service on the Cyclades in 2002 and went on to have immensely successful careers there.
Despite all these changes, the BLUE SKY was still part of her company's short-term plans, and continued to serve the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Venice line with the BLUE HORIZON, until the latter moved to the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Bari line in 2003. Throughout this spell, she suffered from multiple engine failures, which did not always make her service very reliable. At the end of the 2003 season, Blue Star Ferries stopped operating in both Ancona and Venice. The BLUE SKY was then deployed on the Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Brindisi line during that time, replacing the BLUE BRIDGE which was due to undergo her annual refit.
The BLUE SKY seen in the port of Patras in 2003, which marked her last summer operating for Blue Star Ferries under the Blue Ferries division. Picture taken by Georgios Grekos and published on www.faktaomfartyg.se.
Another view of the BLUE SKY in the port of Patras in 2003, which marked her last summer operating for Blue Star Ferries under the Blue Ferries division. Picture taken by Georgios Grekos and published on www.faktaomfartyg.se.
After spending a few months on the Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Brindisi line, the BLUE SKY would go on to experience another change in ownership. Indeed, Blue Star Ferries wanted to further limit their services on the Adriatic Sea and also stop their remaining operations on the Ionian Sea. Therefore, by the end of 2004, they had sold three ships. The BLUE BRIDGE was sold to the Spanish company Iscomar, being renamed MERCEDES DEL MAR (she then made a comeback on the Adriatic Sea as the BRIDGE of the Greek company European Seaways from 2010 to 2017), while the KEFALONIA was sold to then-newly-established company Strintzis Ferries, which kept her on the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line. They were a new company managed by the Strintzis family, and remained active until 2012. The KEFALONIA is now owned by Levante Ferries and operates on the Kyllini-Zakynthos line and on the Kyllini-Kefalonia line. The third ship to be sold was the BLUE SKY, which joined the Greek company Agoudimos Lines in early 2004, at the age of 30. Moreover, the Blue Ferries division was discontinued, and all ships (except for the SEA JET 2 which continued to operate under the Blue Star Jets division until she was sold in 2006 to Sea Jets as well) began to operate under the standard Blue Star Ferries brandname.
The new owners of the BLUE SKY were a company with a significant presence on both the Cyclades and the Adriatic Sea. Founded in 1988 by the shipowner Dimitris Agoudimos (the brother of Gerasimos Agoudimos, who owned and managed the company GA Ferries from 1988 until 2009), they first deployed the ferry ALEKOS (formerly a Ro-Ro carrier, and which was renamed KAPETAN ALEXANDROS in 1989, and then KAPETAN ALEXANDROS A in 2002) from Rafina to the Cyclades and later to the Dodecanese in 1990. In 1992, the company bought the ferry STENA HORSA of Sealink Stena Line, converted her, renamed her PENELOPE A, and deployed her on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line, where she became a legendary ship. The KAPETAN ALEXANDROS was transferred to the Adriatic Sea, on the Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Brindisi line when the PENELOPE A entered service on the Cyclades. After she also produced good results, Agoudimos Lines sought to expand their services, but their plans were put on hold in 1999, when the PENELOPE A was sold to Minoan Flying Dolphins and was renamed EXPRESS PENELOPE. Agoudimos Lines instead bought the Ro-Pax ferry ROSTOCK LINK of Scandlines in 2000, converted her, renamed her PENELOPE A, and deployed her on the Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Brindisi line as well, while the KAPETAN ALEXANDROS was inserted on the Bari-Vlöre line.
In 2004, the company experienced an unexpected growth which enabled them to expand both their fleet and their services. The KAPETAN ALEXANDROS A was deployed on the Brindisi-Vlöre line, and three new ships were acquired: the EXPRESS PENELOPE which was bought back from Hellas Flying Dolphins (the name under which Minoan Flying Dolphins became known in 2002) and resumed service as the PENELOPE A on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line, the BLUE SKY from Blue Star Ferries and the Japanese-built cruiseferry FERRY LAVENDER of Shin Nikonhai Ferry (built in 1991). The latter two ships underwent a conversion in Perama, and were respectively renamed IONIAN SKY and IONIAN KING, beginning a small trend whereupon some of the ships of Agoudimos Lines would receive the 'IONIAN' prefix, just like Strintzis Lines had done so in the past. The IONIAN SKY resumed service on the Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Brindisi line, while the IONIAN KING began service in 2005 on the Patras-Kefalonia-Igoumenitsa-Bari line. That season, the PENELOPE A which had been acquired in 2000 ceded her place to the IONIAN SKY, and she entered service as the PENELOPE on the Aegean Sea, operating on the Thessaloniki-Samos-Kos-Rhodes-Chalki-Karpathos-Kasos-Heraklion-Santorini-Paros-Tinos-Skiathos line in 2005, and then on the Kavala-Thessaloniki-Samos-Kalymnos-Kos-Rhodes-Chalki-Karpathos-Kasos-Heraklion-Santorini-Paros-Tinos-Skiathos line in 2006 and in 2007. With five different ships across the Adriatic Sea and the Aegean Sea, Agoudimos Lines became one of the most dominant companies of the Greek coastal service in the mid 2000s.
The IONIAN SKY seen on drydock in Perama, during her change of livery from the one of Blue Star Ferries to that of Agoudimos Lines, in early 2004. Picture taken by Dinos Lemonis and published on www.faktaomfartyg.se.
The IONIAN SKY seen in Brindisi in 2004, during her first summer of operations under Agoudimos Lines. Picture taken by Daniele Miglio and published on www.faktaomfartyg.se.
The IONIAN SKY seen departing the port of Brindisi in 2005, during her second summer under Agoudimos Lines. Picture taken by Dominik Wagner and published on www.adriaticandaegeanferries.com.
In 2007, Agoudimos Lines made a few changes to their services. The IONIAN SKY was reflagged from Greece to Panama in order to have a flag of convenience, but she continued to serve the Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Brindisi line with much success. Similar positive results provided by the IONIAN KING and the PENELOPE A prompted Agoudimos Lines to buy another ship, namely the Baltic Sea veteran ferry ROSLAGEN of the Finnish company Eckerö Linjen (which was initially reported to have been sold to Zante Ferries), which was renamed IONIAN SPIRIT.
The IONIAN SKY seen at night in Igoumenitsa in 2007, when she was sailing under the Panamanian flag. Picture taken by Michele Lulurgas and and published on www.adriaticandaegeanferries.com.
During the 2008 season, there were more significant changes within the operations of Agoudimos Lines. Indeed, the PENELOPE ended her service on the Aegean Sea and returned to the Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Brindisi line, where she was also joined by the IONIAN SPIRIT, which had finished her conversion in Keratsini and in Perama. The IONIAN SKY joined the IONIAN KING on the Patras-Kefalonia-Igoumenitsa-Bari line that season, while also reacquiring the Greek flag and being registered in Piraeus once again.
The IONIAN SKY seen in Patras in 2008, in what was her first summer operating from the port since 2003. It was eventually her last summer operating there, and also the last summer of her career under the Greek flag. Picture taken by Michele Lulurgas and published on www.adriaticandaegeanferries.com.
With the arrival of the newly-built Ro-Pax ferries SUPERFAST I and SUPERFAST II of Superfast Ferries in 2008 and 2009, respectively, on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Bari line, Agoudimos Lines found themselves under a new threatening competition, which eventually pushed the IONIAN SKY out of the line. She therefore returned to the Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Brindisi line in 2009, operating there alongside the PENELOPE, which was deployed on the Zakynthos-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Brindisi line. The IONIAN SKY replaced the IONIAN SPIRIT, which was sent to the Brindisi-Vlöre line in order to replace the KAPETAN ALEXANDROS A, which was sold for scrap to Turkey at the age of 47. The IONIAN SKY was also reflagged once again, this time to Cyprus, and was registered in Limassol, which was the last port of registry of the ship's career. She continued to serve the Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Brindisi line, and kept providing positive results. At the start of the 2010s, however, Agoudimos Lines found themselves among the first victims of the Greek financial crisis, which hit the ferry market (and particularly the one of the Adriatic Sea) very hard. The company saw their debts to their crews, shipyards and port authorities increase dramatically. As a result of these ongoing difficulties, the IONIAN KING, the youngest ferry and the flagship of the company, was sold in 2011 after spending her last summer under Agoudimos Lines on the Zakynthos-Kefalonia-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Brindisi line. This sale was done in order for Agoudimos Lines to limit some of their debts. The IONIAN KING was sold to the Japanese operator Huis Ten Bosch Shipping, was renamed OCEAN ROSE, and began service in 2012 on the Shanghai-Nagasaki line. Just a year later, she was sold to International Oceanic Group, was renamed OCEAN GRAND, and operated as a casino ship in Singapore. After a two-year-long lay-up in Batam in Indonesia from 2015 to 2017, she was sold for scrap to India in 2017, aged only 26. Furthermore, the PENELOPE was withdrawn from service.
The IONIAN SKY seen approaching the port of Igoumenitsa during the summer of 2010. Picture taken by Stefanos Antoniadis and published on www.marinetraffic.com.
Ahead of the 2012 season, the sacrifices of the IONIAN KING and of the PENELOPE were not enough to prevent the company from experiencing further financial difficulties. Ultimately, the IONIAN SPIRIT was arrested in Brindisi. Only the PENELOPE A continued to operate on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line. The IONIAN SKY, despite having her crew being unpaid for many months, eventually returned to service on the Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Brindisi line, but only during the months of July and August. After that, she was arrested in Igoumenitsa due to the continued debts owned by the company to the crew.
The IONIAN SKY seen arriving in Igoumenitsa in 2012, which was her last summer operating for Agoudimos Lines. Picture taken by Marios Ferentinos and published on www.marinetraffic.com.
With the future of Agoudimos Lines now under a very uncertain state, there were many concerns about the availability of the crews and whether the ships would operate during the 2013 season. The crew of the PENELOPE A also reported that it had not received wages in many months, and threatened to arrest the ship as well. Ultimately, ahead of the summer of 2013, the IONIAN SPIRIT remained laid-up in Brindisi, the PENELOPE A returned to service on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line (being the only ship to operate for the company), the PENELOPE was sold for scrap to Turkey at the age of 38, and the IONIAN SKY was chartered to the Greek company NEL Lines.
This new move for the ship became very interesting, as she was joining another struggling company after having already experienced issues with her current owners. Indeed, NEL Lines, which was the main company operating on the Northeast Aegean Sea and notably on the Piraeus-Chios-Mytilene line since 1973, had unexpectedly expanded its fleet in 2010, by buying and chartering various ships owned by inactive companies such as the MYRTIDIOTISSA of ANEN Lines (which was renamed AQUA MARIA), the AQUA JEWEL of Alpha Ferries, the EUROPEAN EXPRESS of Access Ferries, the Ro-Ro carriers of Adriatic Lines RO-PAX 1 (which was renamed AQUA HERCULES) and RO-PAX 2 (which was renamed OLYMPUS) and the Ro-Ro carrier MYKONOS of Mykonos ANE (now the TALOS of Creta Cargo Lines). They also went on to charter the high speed craft of My Ferries that were being prepared for the summer season, the MYCAT I (which was renamed ALKIONI) and the MYCAT II (which was renamed CYCLADES EXPRESS, and is now the NAXOS JET of Sea Jets), two Ro-Ro carriers built in Japan (one of which was the former Nihon Enkai Ferry/Blue Highway Line fleetmate of the IONIAN SKY, namely the ex-ŌARAI MARU, which became the COLOSSUS; while the other one was renamed IPPOTIS). In 2011 they also added the ferry MR SHOPPY ONE that was previously operating for the Swedish company Mr. Shoppy and renamed her AQUA SPIRIT, and also bought the laid-up landing craft KONSTANTINOS G owned by Costar Lines, and reactivated her on her previous service, on the Mytilene-Dikili line (connecting Lesbos with Turkey). Hence, the company found itself with a fully expanded fleet, and with numerous new areas to operate in. Previously, their only services were based on the Piraeus-Chios-Mytilene line (with some occasional extensions to Limnos, Kavala or Thessaloniki), the Northeast Aegean Sea lifelines and the inter-Cyclades lifelines, where the AEOLOS KENTERIS I and the AEOLOS KENTERIS II were being deployed (before being respectively replaced by the AQUA JEWEL in 2010 and then by the AQUA SPIRIT in 2011). With the new additions, they could now operate on the Sporades, on the Heraklion-Santorini line, on the Adriatic Sea and the Dodecanese (with the Ro-Ro carriers), as well as on the Lavrion-Psara-Chios line. This rise was well received by passengers, but met with skepticism by some, as it seemed incomprehensible for a company that was mainly based on government-subsidised lifelines to buy and charter so many ferries at once, including some that had been inactive for as many as two years. Eventually, these acquisitions caused a huge debt for the company, from which they never recovered and which ended-up sealing their demise just five years later.
Indeed, just two years after expanding their fleet, NEL Lines had already shown signs of instability, as several of the ships they chartered left after only one or two seasons. The CYCLADES EXPRESS and the ALKIONI were sent for lay-up in 2010 and 2012 respectively, the departures of the IPPOTIS and of the COLOSSUS ended the company's presence on the Dodecanese after only two years (they were then scrapped in 2014 and 2013, respectively), the AQUA HERCULES and the OLYMPUS had an unsuccessful spell on the Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Bari line and were sold to the Emirati company SAMC (and spent the next years laid-up in Port Saïd, with the OLYMPUS heading for scrap in 2017), the PANAGIA THALASSINI and the PANAGIA PAROU ended their respective services on the Sporades and on the Northeast Aegean Sea in order to be chartered to Inter Shipping on the Algeciras-Tangier Med line on the Gibraltar Strait (a charter that lasted just a season and which turned out to be a failure, as both owners and charterers ended-up suffering from economic problems), and the AEOLOS KENTERIS, the AEOLOS KENTERIS I and the AEOLOS KENTERIS II were laid-up in Salamina, having been taken out of the company's plans due to their financial situation. Furthermore, in early 2013, the two ships operating on the Piraeus-Chios-Mytilene line, the THEOFILOS and the EUROPEAN EXPRESS, were shockingly arrested by their crews, and this marked the first time that the company did not have a ship operating on its main line, which it had been serving continuously for 40 years. However, they sought to fill that gap by bringing-in the IONIAN SKY, which was deemed fit for such a service despite her large size.
During the spring of 2013, the IONIAN SKY arrived in Drapetsona. She was planned to be deployed on the Piraeus-Lavrion-Psara-Chios-Mytilene line under the name EUROPEAN SKY. She began a small conversion which also included a drydocking procedure in Perama. By the time she was due to begin operations for NEL Lines, the company had had found itself under an unprecedented turmoil. The THEOFILOS, due to return on the Northeast Aegean Sea lifeline, was still laid-up, the charter of the MYKONOS ended, the KONSTANTINOS G was abruptly withdrawn from her service and never returned to operate for NEL Lines (being instead sold to the Equatorial Guinean company Somagec the following year), the AQUA JEWEL suffered an engine failure which kept her laid-up in Lavrion for three months (and thus causing issues regarding the inter-Cycaldes services), the AQUA MARIA was forced to leave the Lavrion-Psara-Chios line several times in order to cover the service left by her engine-plagued fleetmates. The EUROPEAN EXPRESS had been sent on the Northeast Aegean Sea lifeline, on the Thessaloniki-Kavala-Limnos-Mytilene-Chios-Samos-Ikaria line, while waiting for the THEOFILOS to arrive. However, she herself was due to depart that line ahead of the summer as she had been chartered to Ventouris Ferries for service on the Adriatic Sea, on the Zakynthos-Kefalonia-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Bari line. With the THEOFILOS still not ready for service and with her crew unpaid in a long time, NEL Lines did not have any available ship to operate on the Northeast Aegean Sea lifeline. They considered chartering the laid-up IERAPETRA L of ANEK Lines (now the AQUA BLUE of Sea Jets), but they instead decided to operate the IONIAN SKY, whose preparation was almost complete in Drapetsona. As a result, the IONIAN SKY made her debut on the Aegean Sea by being deployed on the Thessaloniki-Kavala-Limnos-Mytilene-Chios-Samos-Ikaria line. She ultimately kept her name and did not change it to EUROPEAN SKY, and she also maintained the Cypriot flag.
The IONIAN SKY seen in Drapetsona during the spring of 2013, right before she started operations for NEL Lines. Picture taken by Michele Lulurgas and published on www.adriaticandaegeanferries.com.
By deploying the IONIAN SKY on the Northeast Aegean Sea, NEL Lines hoped that the ship would help them reacquire a positive reputation in the area, with less engine failures and canceled trips, while also proving that the ship was still sail-worthy. However, their hopes soon became nightmares. Because of alleged poor maintenance on the ferry, she experienced several engine failures, almost to the same extent as the ship that she had replaced, the EUROPEAN EXPRESS. As a result, despite offering good accommodation onboard, she failed to be appreciated by passengers and caused several problems within the connection of the Northeast Aegean Sea Islands. Finally, towards the end of the 2013 summer season, she suffered a new major engine failure in Mytilene, which eventually ended her summer, her charter, and, ultimately, her career. Unable to be repaired on-the-spot, she was towed to Salamina. Due to the ongoing economic problems of NEL Lines, she ended-up remaining abandoned there. Her charter to the company ended, and she was replaced on the Northeast Aegean Sea by the EUROPEAN EXPRESS, whose charter to Ventouris Ferries had ended. She therefore returned to Agoudimos Lines, but the latter had also suffered from irreparable economic damages. The crew of the PENELOPE A finally had enough with the company's inability to provide their salaries, and therefore permanently arrested the ship in Rafina. She was later brought to Elefsina in 2014, where she has been remaining laid-up ever since. She was the last ship to serve for Agoudimos Lines, which eventually ceased operations for good.
The IONIAN SKY seen heading from Piraeus to the Northeast Aegean Sea in order to begin her service there, ahead of the 2013 summer season. Picture taken by Georgios Koutsoukis and published on www.faktaomfartyg.se.
The IONIAN SKY seen in the port of Chios during the summer of 2013, in what was her only season under NEL Lines and eventually the last summer during which she operated overall. Picture published on www.marinetraffic.com.
The IONIAN SKY seen laid-up in Salamina in late 2013. It was there that she went on to stay until early 2020. Picture taken by Georgios Mertis and published on www.marinetraffic.com.
With the IONIAN SKY laid-up, the problems of NEL Lines and Agoudimos Lines remained prominent in 2014 and in 2015. In the case of the latter, all the ships remained laid-up, with only the IONIAN SPIRIT being reactivated, after she was sold in 2016 (following four years of lay-up in Brindisi) to the Italian-Albanian company European Ferries, and has since returned to service as the ST DAMIAN on the Brindisi-Vlöre line. In the case of NEL Lines, continuous engine problems suffered by the EUROPEAN EXPRESS, the THEOFILOS and later the veteran ferry MYTILENE on the Northeast Aegean Sea eventually forced the Greek Ministry of Shipping and Insular Policy to remove the company from the area, replacing them with Hellenic Seaways and Blue star Ferries. The THEOFILOS and the EUROPEAN EXPRESS were permanently laid-up in Drapetsona in late 2014, before moving to Elefsina and Perama respectively in the years that followed. The MYTILENE suffered a major engine failure in Samos in 2015, and spent a year laid-up there before being towed for permanent lay-up in Elefsina as well. After the company was unable to pay the crews of the other remaining active ships, the TAXIARCHIS and the AQUA SPIRIT, both ships were arrested, and the company shut down operations before the start of the 2015 season.
With NEL Lines no longer active, their ships went on to await their fates. Some were luckier, others are still laid-up and others, like the IONIAN SKY spent several years of misery before finally giving in to the torch-breakers. The MYKONOS joined Creta Cargo Lines in 2014 and was renamed TALOS, the AQUA JEWEL temporarily rejoined Alpha Ferries and returned to service in 2017 after having been bought by Sea Jets. The latter also bought the AQUA SPIRIT and the CYCLADES EXPRESS in early 2016, reactivating them for service on the Cyclades. The AQUA MARIA was bought by Aqua Ferries, was again renamed MYRTIDIOTISSA and entered service on the Sporades in 2016 (later becoming the ALEXANDRA L of the now-inactive Kefalonian Lines in 2018). The PANAGIA THALASSINI returned to Greece after having been bought by Idomeneas Lines (owned by the Panagiotopoulos family) but never re-entered service due to debts owed by NEL Lines. The PANAGIA PAROU remained laid-up in Algeciras until sinking inside the port in 2017, eventually being refloated and sold for scrap to Turkey in 2018. The high speed craft ALKIONI (which has recently started to undergo renovation works), AEOLOS KENTERIS I and AEOLOS KENTERIS II have remained in Salamina for years and are progressively becoming more assimilated to the scrapyards despite their young age. The TAXIARCHIS was laid-up in Lavrion from 2015 to 2018 and is now also in Salamina awaiting her fate. The EUROPEAN EXPRESS was laid-up in Drapetsona from 2014 to 2016, and then in Perama from 2016 to early 2019, when she departed Greece for the final time in order to be scrapped at the age of 45. The MYTILENE, the THEOFILOS and the PENELOPE A have all been laid-up together in Elefsina Bay, and a return to service for them also seems like a very long shot.
Ahead of the 2015 season, there were rumours about the IONIAN SKY making a comeback to service under Agoudimos Lines on the Zakynthos-Kefalonia-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Bari line, but this did not happen as the travel agencies thought that such a deployment would be too risky. She was then reportedly sold to a Cypriot company called Medferry Shipping Company, during an auction held by the Piraeus Port Authority in 2018, but nothing happened. During that same year, she was then rumoured to have been sold to a Portuguese company for service on the Setúbal-Funchal line, thus connecting mainland Portugal with the Madeira Archipelago. However, this sale did not materialise either. Besides, the ship was 44 years old, and left without any proper engines that would allow her to sail again.
My first-ever picture of the IONIAN SKY, as she is seen laid-up during the summer of 2019, just a few months before she was sold for scrap. All that time, despite having returned under the control of the now-defunct Agoudimos Lines, she kept the livery of NEL Lines, the last company for which she operated.
The IONIAN SKY laid-up in Salamina, where she had been remaining since late 2013. She is seen here during the summer of 2019, which marked 20 years following her last summer under Strintzis Lines, before the latter was transferred to Attica Group, which resulted in the creation of Blue Star Ferries.
The IONIAN SKY seen in Salamina, in what happened to be my last-ever picture of the ship. I did not expect her to leave Greece forever just a few months after I had seen her for the first time. Therefore, I was unable to say a proper goodbye to her.
Towards late 2019, the ship began listing a bit towards her starboard side, but immediate action taken by the Piraeus Port Authority prevented the situation from worsening, which would have meant that the ferry would start to sink in Salamina. In early 2020, it was reported that the IONIAN SKY would soon leave Salamina in order to be scrapped. This eventually happened on 21 January of this year, when she was towed to Aliağa in Turkey in order to be demolished. It marked her first trip after seven years of lay-up, but it was to be the last of her 46-year-long career. A trip without a real destination, with no passengers nor vehicles loaded onboard. After having served the Greek coastal service for 22 years under four different operators, the ship now belonged to history.
A frequent presence on the Adriatic Sea during 15 years, the IONIAN SKY had an inconsistent spell, largely explained by the poor condition of her engines which prevented her from sailing at full-speed like other ferries in the area. They were perhaps the only thing that Strintzis Lines did not take into consideration when they bought her as the IONIAN VICTORY and converted her under a limited time frame. This quick conversion eventually haunted her in the long run, and she eventually succumbed to her technical issues during her sole season on the Aegean Sea under NEL Lines. Despite her occasional problems, she still managed to operate well on certain services, particularly on the Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Brindisi line on which she operated for the largest part of her stint under Agoudimos Lines. Had her final operators been under a better financial situation, and had her engines been refitted during her arrival in Greece, she would have certainly still continued to operate today, as she did during her successful career in Japan, and considering the fact that some ships built during the same period as her continue to operate efficiently across the Greek coastal service. Eventually, her engines and the poor management of Agoudimos Lines and NEL Lines sealed her fate, and she is now ready to meet her end after seven years of waiting. Only ships like the PENELOPE A, the THEOFILOS, the MYTILENE and the TAXIARCHIS still remain languishing in Elefsina and Salamina, respectively, although their end seems to be arriving soon.
Despite her turbulent end, the IONIAN SKY was a loyal ferry which served several passengers and vehicles on the Adriatic Sea, including during the times when she was known as the IONIAN VICTORY and then as the BLUE SKY. Her indoor areas and her large garage were much-appreciated and made her useful on services like the Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Brindisi line. Even during her troublesome spell on the Northeast Aegean Sea lifeline, passengers were impressed by her amenities which were deemed superior to those of her former NEL Lines fleetmates. She has at least found peace after several difficult years, and many will keep remembering her for her potential and for her lengthy service under Agoudimos Lines. Therefore, IONIAN SKY (the name under which I got to know you), I would like to thank you for your contribution to the Greek coastal service.
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