Goodbye VITSENTZOS KORNAROS
The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS seen in Piraeus during the summer of 2016, which turned out to be her last full summer operating in the Greek coastal service.
Just over two months after writing my Blog post about the IONIAN SKY of Agoudimos Lines (and lastly operated by NEL Lines), I find myself writing yet another Ship Farewell Tribute post. Indeed, a ship which was laid-up next to the IONIAN SKY before she departed for the scrapyards in early 2020 is also currently following her to Turkey in order to end her career for good. This ship, however, is the legendary VITSENTZOS KORNAROS of LANE Sea Lines, which is considered to be one of the best ferries to have ever operated in the Greek coastal service. This iconic ferry, which had been laid-up since 2017 in Salamina following a major engine failure, left Greece for the last time yesterday, and is currently on her way towards the Turkish coastal city of Aliağa in order to be demolished. This comes after 44 years of service, 26 of which were spent in Greece, with all of them being on the well-known Aegean Sea. However, the last three years of her career saw her inactive due to the aforementioned engine trouble which eventually ended her career.
Along with her own end, yesterday also marked the end of LANE Sea Lines, which officially left the Greek coastal service frame after 26 years (although the company had been inactive since the arrest of the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS in 2017). Therefore, the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS operated for them throughout their entire period of existence , with the vast majority of that time being very successful. Before her iconic career in Greece, the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS also spent 18 years in Northern Europe, as she operated for the British company Townsend Thoresen on the North Sea and then for its successor, P&O European Ferries, primarily on the Channel. Following an eventful spell there, she was bought in 1994 by the then-newly-established LANE Lines (which was rebranded as LANE Sea Lines in 2006), which sought to bring an end to the exclusion of the ports of the Lasithi region in Crete with the rest of the Aegean Sea. Indeed, as the main Cretan ports of Chania, Heraklion and Rethymnon were all being served by local operators, they sought to further strengthen the importance of the ports of Lasithi, Agios Nikolaos and Siteia, by operating an efficient ferry. This turned out to be the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS, which, following a conversion in Piraeus and then a second one in Perama, began service in the summer of 1994 on the Piraeus-Milos-Agios Nikolaos-Siteia line. The service was a success, and therefore LANE Lines extended it to other islands of the Cyclades and of the Dodecanese over the following years. In 1999, the company became a part of the joint venture formed and controlled by fellow Cretan company ANEK Lines. The latter gave the ferry TALOS to LANE Lines, with the ferry becoming the IERAPETRA L and providing the same successful service as the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS. The latter, which became known for serving some of the most demanding and difficult lifelines of the Aegean Sea, also had a spell on the Northeast Aegean Sea and the Dodecanese in the mid 2000s. However, by that time, strong competition provided by Minoan Lines and airlines reduced the importance of the service to Agios Nikolaos and Siteia. This, combined with the poor management of LANE Sea Lines through ANEK Lines, led to the ship leaving the Cyclades-Lasithi-Dodecanese lifeline, and she instead went to another very demanding lifeline in 2009, the one linking Piraeus with the Peloponnese, Kythira, Antikythira and Crete. For the following eight years, she became a favourite within the Aegean Sea, and she provided very good service up until the last season of her career, in 2017. That year, she suffered a major engine failure, which took her out of action and left Kythira and Antikythira without any link with Piraeus and Crete. Combined with her old age and LANE Sea Lines' continuing financial issues, she was eventually withdrawn from service, and remained laid-up in Salamina from 2017 until yesterday, when she departed Greece for the last time in order to make the last trip of her career.
Despite her eventual downfall in 2017, the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS is remembered fondly by many passengers and shipping enthusiasts. In 26 years, she served some of the most difficult lifelines of the Aegean Sea, notably serving more remote islands like Kasos, Karpathos, Chalki and Castellorizon on the Dodecanese, and then Kythira and Antikythira in the last seasons of her career. She encountered a few technical problems and accidents during her Greek career, but these did not prevent her from becoming a beloved ship in the Greek coastal service. She was particularly praised for the professionalism of her crew, and she notably had some of Greece's finest captains watching over her helm. Her indoor areas were very much appreciated, her garage could fit a significant capacity of vehicles, and her outdoor areas were considered to be among the most precious of any Greek ferry. More notably, the balcony located right over bow and below her bridge was widely acclaimed as one of the nicest areas for a shipping enthusiast willing to have a full view of the Aegean Sea from the ship. All these factors made her a legendary ferry, which provided very good service for most of her career, while also serving some of the Aegean Sea's most remote islands and therefore connecting them with the rest of Greece.
Just like all Ship Farewell Tribute posts that I have done in the past, this Blog post covers the entire history of the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS from her career on the North Sea and the Channel until her final lay-up in Salamina. Unfortunately for me, I never got the chance to travel with her, as I have not yet been in Crete, the Dodecanese, Kythira and Antikythira. Looking at other people's pictures and trip experiences with her made me even more envious of them, as I really missed the opportunity to have a great trip with such a great ferry on the Aegean Sea. Despite this, I was able to see her and photograph her a few times in Piraeus, back when she was still operating regularly. Therefore, unlike other ferries that were sold for scrap, I at least managed to take pictures of her while she was still active, and not only during her final lay-up years. It is now the time for me to provide you with the full history of the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS, or 'The Poet' (as she was affectionally nicknamed), which will hardly be forgotten by shipping enthusiasts like me, as well as residents and travelers in Crete, Kythira, Antikythira, the Cyclades, the Dodecanese and the Northeast Aegean Sea.
The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS was built in 1976 in Denmark, in the Aalborg Værft Shipyard in Aalborg, as the VIKING VISCOUNT for the British company Townsend Thoresen, whose roots can be traced back in 1935, when the European Ferries Group was established. The company became prominent in 1968, as it merged the services of the British company Townsend Car Ferries Ltd and the Norwegian operator Thoresen Car Ferries A/S, both of which were operating on the Channel and on the North Sea, connecting France, Belgium and The Netherlands with the United Kingdom. Notable services included the Calais-Dover line, the Boulogne-Dover line, the Cherbourg-Southampton line, the Le Havre-Portsmouth line, the Zeebrugge-Dover line, the Amsterdam-Felixstowe line and the Rotterdam-Felixstowe line. In the early 1970s, the company ordered several ferries and extended its services dramatically, while notably competing against the British conglomerate Sealink (later Sealink British Ferries), who also owned several well-known ferries on the Channel and on the North Sea. In 1973, Townsend Thoresen began to manage the Northern Irish port of Larne, and therefore began to serve the North Channel as well. The company had several distinguishable ferries, many of which went on to have successful spells in Greece at the end of the 20th century. These included the late FREE ENTERPRISE I (built in 1962, scrapped in 2013) which went on to become the iconic KIMOLOS of Ventouris Sea Lines and then the ERGINA of Ventouris Ferries, the late VIKING I (built in 1964, scrapped in 2008) which later became the EUROPEAN GLORY of European Seaways and then the MEDIA II of the famed Hellenic Mediterranean Lines (defunct since 2007), the late Ro-Ro carrier CERDIC FERRY (built in 1961, scrapped in 2007) which later became the passenger ferry SIFNOS EXPRESS of Ventouris Sea Lines and then the IGOUMENITSA EXPRESS of AK Ventouris (later known as C-Link Ferries, defunct since 2007), the late Ro-Ro carrier DORIC FERRY (built in 1962, scrapped in 2009) which later became the ALEKOS/KAPETAN ALEXANDROS/KAPETAN ALEXANDROS A of Agoudimos Lines (defunct since 2013), the late FREE ENTERPRISE VIII (built in 1974, scrapped in 2011) which became the legendary ROMILDA of GA Ferries (defunct since 2009), the late EUROPEAN GATEWAY (built in 1975, scrapped in 2013) which later became the PENELOPE A/PENELOPE of Agoudimos Lines, the PRINCE LAURENT (built in 1974) which became the legendary SUPERFERRY II of Strintzis Lines, Blue Star Ferries and now of Golden Star Ferries, and many more.
The VIKING VISCOUNT was the last of the four sister ships that were ordered by Townsend Thoresen between 1975 and 1976, as part of the Viking V-class that was due to operate on the Channel and on the North Sea in addition to the newly-built ferries that were inserted on the core Calais-Dover line. The first two ships were the VIKING VENTURER and the VIKING VALIANT, which were deployed in 1975 on the Le Havre-Portsmouth line and on the Zeebrugge-Felixstowe line, respectively. In late 1975, the third ship, the VIKING VOYAGER, was inserted on the Zeebrugge-Felixstowe line as well. Finally, in 1976, the VIKING VISCOUNT was completed, and replaced the VIKING VALIANT on the Zeebrugge-Felixstowe line, and the latter joined the VIKING VENTURER on the Channel, being deployed on the Le Havre-Cherbourg-Southampton line. Therefore, the VIKING VISCOUNT and the VIKING VOYAGER (which later had a spell in Greece, operating as the SAMOTHRAKI for Saos Ferries from 2005 until she was sold for scrap in 2011) connected Belgium with the British port of Felixstowe, located in the county of Suffolk. All ships were registered in Dover and thus carried the British flag. The port of Felixstowe also saw several other ships of the company which would connect it with Amsterdam and Rotterdam, with these notably being the ships of the European-class.
The VIKING VISCOUNT seen during her first year of operations, in 1976, while docked in the port of Felixstowe. She notably featured the famous orange livery of Townsend Thoresen, which became a major reference for passengers on the North Sea, the Channel and the North Channel. Picture taken by Bob Scott and published on www.doverferryphotosforums.co.uk.
The VIKING VISCOUNT seen sailing on the North Sea, during the first summer of her career in 1976. Picture taken by Cpt. Jan Melchers and published on www.doverferryphotosforums.co.uk.
The introduction of the VIKING VISCOUNT and of the VIKING VOYAGER proved to be a smart move for Townsend Thoresen, and both ships became very popular in both Belgium and the United Kingdom, and were praised for their freight service and comfortable indoor areas.
A view of the VIKING VOYAGER, the sister ship and first partner of the VIKING VISCOUNT on the Zeebrugge-Felixstowe line. She is seen leaving the latter port during one of the first years of her career. She moved to the Le Havre-Cherbourg-Southampton line in 1986. Just like most ships of Townsend Thoresen, she joined P&O European Ferries in 1987, and she was renamed PRIDE OF CHERBOURG in 1989, and was inserted on the Cherbourg-Portsmouth line the following year. After being temporarily renamed PRIDE OF CHERBOURG II in 1994, she was then sold that same year to the Spanish-Norwegian company Lineas Fred. Olsen, was renamed BAÑADEROS, and began service on the Canary Islands Archipelago. She was renamed BARLOVENTO in 2000, and in 2005 she was sold to the Greek company Saos Ferries, being renamed SAMOTHRAKI. She thus became the second ship of the Viking V-class to operate in Greece, following the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS. She began service on the Piraeus-Chios-Mytilene-Limnos-Kavala line in 2005, where she had an average spell. She remained on the Northeast Aegean Sea during the 2007 season as well, when she was inserted on the Thessaloniki-Limnos-Mytilene-Chios-Samos line. She remained there until late 2008, when she was arrested by her crew in Kavala due to the company's financial difficulties. She was then sent to Alexandroupolis for further lay-up in 2009, and, after two years, she was sold for scrap to Turkey in 2011, leaving the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS as the last survivor of the Viking V-class. Picture taken by Peter Longhurst and published on www.doverferryphotosforums.co.uk.
The VIKING VALIANT, which was the second sister ship of the VIKING VISCOUNT, seen in Portsmouth in 1984. She started her career on the Le Havre-Cherbourg-Portsmouth line, and remained there until 1984, when her service was restricted to the Le Havre-Portsmouth line. In 1986, she underwent a major conversion in Bremerhaven in Germany, whereupon she underwent the 'Jumboisation' process alongside her sister ship, the VIKING VENTURER. This consisted in creating larger forward sections as well as adding another intermediate deck by having her accommodation superstructure initially cut in half before adding the new deck. As a result, both ships saw their passenger and vehicle capacity increase dramatically, but their aesthetic appearance was immediately panned. The VIKING VISCOUNT and the VIKING VOYAGER were initially supposed to undergo the same conversion, but the changes that occurred within the company in 1987 eventually spared them from having this unpleasant conversion. As a result, they were no longer identical to their two other sister ships. The VIKING VALIANT was reintroduced on the Le Havre-Portsmouth line, and in 1987 she joined P&O European Ferries, being renamed PRIDE OF LE HAVRE in 1989. In 1994 she was renamed PRIDE OF CHERBOURG and was deployed on the Cherbourg-Portsmouth line. She joined the P&O Portsmouth subsidiary in 1999, and in 2002 she was renamed PRIDE OF CHERBOURG A. Later that year, she and the VIKING VENTURER (which by that time had been renamed PRIDE OF HAMPSHIRE) were sold to the Egyptian company El Salam Maritime Transport for service on the Red Sea, and were renamed PRIDE OF AL SALAM 1 and PRIDE OF AL SALAM 2, respectively. They were both however chartered in 2003 to the Moroccan company COMANAV, with the PRIDE OF AL SALAM 1 being inserted on the Almería-Nador line. She was renamed NADOR in 2004, and continued to operate for COMANAV until 2005, when she spent the latter year's season as the MOGADOR. In 2006 she was laid-up in Suez, and she was sold for scrap in 2010, alongside the PRIDE OF AL SALAM 2 (which had been renamed OUJDA), becoming the first ships of the Viking V-class to be sold for scrap. Picture taken by Robert J. Smith and published on www.doverferryphotosforums.co.uk.
The VIKING VENTURER, which was the third sister ship of the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS, seen in Southampton in 1984. She was deployed on the Le Havre-Portsmouth line in 1975, and remained there until 1983, when she moved to the Le Havre-Southampton line. In 1984 she was transferred back to the Le Havre-Portsmouth line, and in 1986 she underwent the 'Jumboisation' conversion in Bremerhaven alongside the VIKING VALIANT. In 1987 she joined P&O European Ferries, being renamed PRIDE OF HAMPSHIRE in 1989. In 1994 she was deployed on the Cherbourg-Portsmouth line, where she remained until 2002. Later that year, she and the VIKING VALIANT (which by that time had been renamed PRIDE OF CHERBOURG A) were sold to the Egyptian company El Salam Maritime Transport for service on the Red Sea, and were renamed PRIDE OF AL SALAM 2 and PRIDE OF AL SALAM 1, respectively. They were both however chartered in 2003 to the Moroccan company COMANAV, with the PRIDE OF AL SALAM 2 being deployed on the Sète-Nador line. She was renamed OUJDA in 2004, and continued to operate for COMANAV until 2007. That same year, she was laid-up in Suez and she was sold for scrap in 2010, alongside the PRIDE OF AL SALAM 1 (which had been renamed MOGADOR), becoming the first ships of the Viking V-class to be sold for scrap. Picture taken by Robert J. Smith and published on www.doverferryphotosforums.co.uk.
The VIKING VISCOUNT remained a core presence on the Zeebrugge-Felixstowe line alongside the VIKING VOYAGER. The company's complete control of the port of Felixstowe enabled them to operate an efficient freight service, which was facilitated by the two ships' large garages. Starting from 1977, during the winter, the VIKING VISCOUNT would spend a few days operating on the Calais-Dover line and on the Zeebrugge-Dover line in order cover the service left by her fleetmates which were undergoing their annual refits. She would then return to her home base, the Zeebrugge-Felixstowe line.
The VIKING VISCOUNT seen in Dover in late 1977, during one of her short spells on the Calais-Dover line while replacing her fleetmates that were undergoing their annual refits. Picture taken by A. G. Jones, published on www.doverferryphotosforums.co.uk.
The VIKING VISCOUNT seen approaching the port of Felixstowe in 1984. That year, her company underwent a logo change. It featured the letter 'T' twice in a white font, and was added in both the ship's two funnels. Picture taken by Brian Fisher and published on www.doverferryphotosforums.co.uk.
After spending her first 10 summers on the Zeebrugge-Felixstowe line alongside the VIKING VOYAGER, the VIKING VISCOUNT saw her services change at the end of the 1985 season. Indeed, Townsend Thoresen decided that the two Ro-Ro carriers NORDIC FERRY and BALTIC FERRY, two sister ships that were operating on the Rotterdam-Felixstowe line, would be converted into passenger ferries and be inserted on the Zeebrugge-Felixstowe line in 1986, thus replacing the incumbent Viking V-class sister ships. The latter two would instead be transferred to the Channel in order to operate on the Le Havre-Southampton line and on the Le Havre-Cherbourg-Portsmouth line, thus replacing their other two sister ships, the VIKING VALIANT and the VIKING VENTURER, which would go on to be converted in Bremerhaven as part of the aforementioned 'Jumboisation' process. Once they would be returning from their conversion, Townsend Thoresen planned to send the VIKING VISCOUNT and the VIKING VOYAGER for a similar conversion in 1987, although this eventually did not happen. In the meantime, Townsend Thoresen slightly modified their Western Channel services. The VIKING VISCOUNT replaced the VIKING VENTURER and the VIKING VALIANT on the Le Havre-Portsmouth line in 1986, while the VIKING VOYAGER was inserted on the Le Havre-Cherbourg-Southampton line.
However, shortly after the completion of the 'Jumboisation' process and the return of the VIKING VENTURER and of the VIKING VALIANT to service, Townsend Thoresen experienced the most tragic event in its history, which ultimately brought an end to its services. Indeed, the ferry HERALD OF FREE ENTERPRISE, which was operating on the Zeebrugge-Dover line, capsized moments after having departed Zeebrugge and sank on the night of 6 March 1987, due to having left her ramp open while still sailing moments after having capsized. As a result, the seawater immediately flooded the ship, thus causing her to sink and resulting in the tragic loss of 193 passengers and crew members. The assistant boatswain was blamed for negligence, as well as the company for having failed to communicate appropriately shortly after the ship had capsized. The ferry was salvaged a year later and was sold for scrap to Taiwan, at just 8 years old. Following an uproar ignited by the British media and international maritime institutions, Townsend Thoresen quickly became one of the most infamous shipping companies in the ferry industry, and many passengers decided to never travel with the company again.
In the aftermath of the disaster, Townsend Thoresen eventually saw their services end permanently. The British enterprise Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, more commonly known as P&O, took over the European Ferries Group in late 1987 (to which it had ironically sold its cross-Channel ferry service just two years prior), and rebranded Townsend Thoresen as P&O European Ferries. During the transitional period, most ferries would continue to carry the livery of Townsend Thoresen on their hulls, but their funnels were replaced with the logo and the colours of P&O. In late 1987, the VIKING VISCOUNT moved to the Cherbourg-Portsmouth line, alongside the VIKING VOYAGER. Ultimately, following the tragedy of the HERALD OF FREE ENTERPRISE and the takeover of Townsend Thoresen by P&O European Ferries, the plans to have both ships converted as part of the 'Jumboisation' process were abandoned. Therefore, both ferries avoided undergoing this unpleasant conversion and maintained their original aesthetic appearance.
The VIKING VISCOUNT seen in Portsmouth in 1987, with her funnels now featuring the logo of P&O European Ferries following the sinking of her former fleetmate, the HERALD OF FREE ENTERPRISE. Picture taken by Brian Fisher and published on www.doverferryphotosforums.co.uk.
The VIKING VALIANT seen in Portsmouth in 1986, following her 'Jumboisation' process. As you can see, she is completely unrecognisable following this conversion. Her sister ship, the VIKING VENTURER, also looked like this for the rest of her career. Picture taken by Photoship and published on www.doverferryphotosforums.co.uk.
Over the 1988 and the 1989 seasons, the former ships of Townsend Thoresen which continued to operate under P&O European Ferries underwent their transitional refit, which saw them receiving a new dark blue livery (implemented by P&O on all its ships) and a new name. Most of them consisted of having the prefix 'PRIDE OF' followed by a local place name from the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and The Netherlands. In the case of the VIKING VISCOUNT and of the VIKING VOYAGER, which were continuing to serve the Cherbourg-Portsmouth line, they underwent their refit in 1989. The VIKING VOYAGER was renamed PRIDE OF CHERBOURG, while the VIKING VISCOUNT was renamed PRIDE OF WINCHESTER, being named after the eponymous city located next to Southampton in the country of Hampshire. She also saw her registry port change from Dover to Portsmouth. In late 1989, she made a temporary appearance on the Calais-Dover line in order to replace her P&O European Ferries fleetmates that were undergoing their annual refits at the time. She then moved back to the Cherbourg-Portsmouth line.
The PRIDE OF WINCHESTER seen having entered the port of Dover in late 1989, shortly after her recent refit which saw her carry the full new livery of P&O European Ferries and her new name for the first time. Picture taken by Nigel Thornton and published on www.doverferryphotosforums.co.uk
The PRIDE OF WINCHESTER seen arriving in Portsmouth in 1991. Picture taken by Andreas Wörteler and published on www.doverferryphotosforums.co.uk.
The PRIDE OF WINCHESTER seen arriving in Portsmouth in early 1994, during the last months of her Channel career and shortly before leaving for Greece. Picture taken by Ken Larwood and published on http://www.doverferryphotosforums.co.uk.
As the 1990s began, the PRIDE OF WINCHESTER continued to operate on the Cherbourg-Portsmouth line, despite the introduction of newly-built Ro-Ro carriers by P&O European Ferries on their other services on the Channel. While continuing to provide regular service, the impending completion of the Channel Tunnel in 1994 began to hit the ferry market on the Channel, with many passenger ferries beginning to have a diminished role at the expense of the freight ferries, which continued to be very popular. Therefore, smaller ferries would soon begin to be insufficient as part of the continuing freight demand. Hence, several former Townsend Thoresen ferries were no longer a part of the long-term plans of P&O European Ferries by 1992 and 1993, and were either transferred to the North Channel and the Irish Sea, or were sold to companies operating on the Mediterranean Sea. A notable example was that of the PRIDE OF CANTERBURY (formerly known as the FREE ENTERPRISE VIII under Townsend Thoresen), which was sold in 1993 to the Greek company GA Ferries, becoming their second ferry to be named ROMILDA. While the undesired ships began to leave the fleet of P&O, the latter also sought to bring larger ferries with tremendous passenger capacity. Two of them were the then-recently-built sister ships OLAU HOLLANDIA and OLAU BRITANNIA of the defunct British company Olau Line, which were acquired by P&O European Ferries in 1994 and were renamed PRIDE OF LE HAVRE and PRIDE OF PORTSMOUTH, respectively. Currently known as the GNV CRISTAL and the GNV ATLAS of the Italian company Grandi Navi Veloci, respectively, the two ships entered service on the Le Havre-Portsmouth line, replacing the two ferries that were operating there. These happened to be the sister ships of the PRIDE OF WINCHESTER, namely the original PRIDE OF LE HAVRE (and formerly known as the VIKING VALIANT) and the PRIDE OF HAMPSHIRE (formerly known as the VIKING VENTURER). Due to their 'Jumboisation' conversion, both ships were therefore transferred to the Cherbourg-Portsmouth line, thus replacing their younger sister ships, the PRIDE OF CHERBOURG and the PRIDE OF WINCHESTER. The PRIDE OF LE HAVRE became the new PRIDE OF CHERBOURG (she was later renamed PRIDE OF CHERBOURG A), while the PRIDE OF HAMPSHIRE kept her name. The original PRIDE OF CHERBOURG was temporarily renamed PRIDE OF CHERBOURG II, but was then sold to Lineas Fred. Olsen. As for the PRIDE OF WINCHESTER, she was withdrawn from service during the summer of 1994 and was sent for lay-up in Southampton, awaiting for a new buyer to come.
The PRIDE OF WINCHESTER seen in Southampton, shortly after completing her P&O European Ferries career, and awaiting for a new opportunity to arise. Picture taken by Ken Larwood and published on www.doverferryphotosforums.co.uk.
Fortunately for the ship, she did not need to wait for a long time. Indeed, just a few days after she ended her Northern European career, she was sold to the newly-established Greek company LANE Lines. The latter was created by the businessman Georgios Alevizos in order to deploy a ship to the ports of Agios Nikolaos and Siteia, located in the Lasithi region, which is in the Easternmost part of Crete. Indeed, 'LANE' stands for 'Lasithiotiki Anonymi Naftiliaki Etaireia' in Greek, which basically means 'Anonymous Shipping Company of Lasithi' in English. Therefore, the company was managed by the population of Lasithi. This was based on the same concept that existed through multiple other Greek shipping companies, and most notably by the other three Cretan regions. Indeed, the region of Chania was represented by the well-known ANEK Lines, Heraklion is the base of famed company Minoan Lines, while Rethymnon was served by Cretan Ferries (also known as Rethymniaki NE), with all of them having direct connections between Piraeus and their respective ports. The region of Lasithi, unlike the other three, had been, in 1994, the only one not to have its local company. There were some ships serving the ports of Agios Nikolaos and Siteia, but very few stayed there on a permanent basis. These included the late KAMIROS of DANE Sea Line in the early 1980s, and later the DALIANA and the MILENA of GA Ferries (through several stops on the Cyclades followed by even more on the Dodecanese) from 1988 to 1991. There were some attempts made by companies like the Greek-Cypriot company Poseidon Lines, which deployed the ferry LASITHI (later known as the SEA HARMONY, then as the SEA HARMONY II and finally as the OLYMPIA I) on the Piraeus-Milos-Agios Nikolaos-Siteia line from 1990 to 1992 until they transferred her to the Piraeus-Rhodes-Limassol line where she went on to stay with her other fleetmates until the company ceased operations in 2002. Previously, another shipowner, Lelakis, through the company Euroferries, deployed the Ro-Pax IERAPETRA (later the ATHINA I of Five Star Lines on the Adriatic Sea) and the ferry SITEIA (formerly operating as the MONACO on the Patras-Brindisi line) on the direct Piraeus-Siteia line from 1988 to 1990, but the service was indifferent. Therefore, the best solution in order to ensure a better connection of Agios Nikolaos and Siteia with Piraeus was to create a company and to have a permanent ferry that would be supported by the people of Lasithi.
With LANE Lines established, the company quickly sought to have a ship ready for operation during the summer of 1994. After learning that the then-18-year-old PRIDE OF WINCHESTER was listed for sale, and deeming her fit for the required service in Lasithi, they decided to buy her. She arrived in Piraeus during the summer of 1994, and she was renamed VITSENTZOS KORNAROS, in honour of the eponymous Cretan poet originating from Siteia, who was a key figure of the Cretan Renaissance during the 16th century and early 17th century, and is also acclaimed as one of the best Cretan writers of all time. She was reflagged from the United Kingdom to Greece, and was registered in Agios Nikolaos, which is where her company was based. She underwent a quick conversion in Piraeus in order to be ready for service during the summer of 1994. As a result, she kept her dark blue P&O European Ferries (known as P&O Ferries since 2002) livery, and only had her P&O insignia replaced by those of LANE Lines on her hull and on her funnels. Her indoor areas and her stern were initially not upgraded, as the company planned to do this right after the completion of the 1994 season.
The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS seen leaving Southampton for the last time in order to begin her new career in Greece. As you can see, her P&O European Ferries insignia were erased, and her name on her bow was initially written as V. KORNAROS, although this was changed to VITSENTZOS KORNAROS by the time she began service under LANE Lines during the summer of 1994. Picture taken by Photoship and published on www.doverferryphotosforums.co.uk.
The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS seen in Piraeus in 1994, during one of her first days in Greece, following her arrival from Southampton. She is seen undergoing the last preparation stages before her entry to service in Lasithi. Her P&O European Ferries colours were maintained, with only the logo of LANE Lines being added to her funnels. The company's name was added on both sides of her hull right before she began to operate. Picture taken by Panteleimon Lelekis and published on www.faktaomfartyg.se.
In August 1994, the ambitious project of LANE Lines became a reality, as the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS began service on the Piraeus-Milos-Agios Nikolaos-Siteia line, and her service quickly became popular amongst the residents of Lasithi. The addition of Milos as an intermediate stop of the itinerary was also praised, with many passengers choosing the ship as she offered a direct link from Piraeus to the Cyclades island. She managed to operate well against her main competitor, the ROMILDA of GA Ferries and formerly her Townsend Thoresen and P&O European Ferries fleetmate, the FREE ENTERPRISE VIII and later the PRIDE OF CANTERBURY. Indeed, the latter made some calls to all ports served by the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS as part of her long itinerary connecting Piraeus with the Cyclades, Crete and the vast majority of the Dodecanese.
The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS seen in Piraeus during her first summer in Greece, and her debut season under LANE Lines. This was also her first and only season under the original LANE Lines livery. Picture taken by Jürgen Saupe and published on www.faktaomfartyg.se.
The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS docked in Piraeus during her debut season in Greece under LANE Lines. Picture taken by Jürgen Saupe and published on www.faktaomfartyg.se.
After a very successful first summer, the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS headed to Perama in order to undergo her extensive conversion so that she could better fit the demands on the Aegean Sea. Her stern was completely upgraded, as it saw the creation of sun decks providing additional outdoor space to passengers. Several cabins were added, her lounge areas were fully refitted, her engines were upgraded, and her iconic front section balcony was maintained. Furthermore, her dark blue livery was abandoned and was replaced by one featuring a traditional white hull, which was present in the vast majority of the ships of the Greek coastal service at the time. After the completion of her conversion, she resumed service in 1995, this time on the Piraeus-Milos-Agios Nikolaos-Siteia-Kasos-Karpathos lifeline, thus operating under a government-subsidised lifeline for the first time (among the many) in her career. The addition of the remote Dodecanese islands of Kasos and Karpathos was challenging, as both of them have very underdeveloped ports which can easily become dangerous during rough weathers, which are quite frequent in this area. Despite these difficulties, 'O Poiïtis', or 'The Poet', as she was affectionally nicknamed by passengers, continued to provide excellent service, and her front section balcony became a landmark attraction for passengers and shipping enthusiasts.
The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS seen undergoing her conversion in Perama in 1995, during which her stern was completely modified. Picture taken by Georgios Giannakis and published on www.adriaticandaegeanferries.com.
The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS seen leaving the port of Piraeus in 1995, in her first summer following her major conversion in Perama, and during her second season under LANE Lines. She is seen with her new white livery, featuring an upgraded logo of the company. Picture taken by Georgios Giannakis and published on www.adriaticandaegeanferries.com.
The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS continued to be successful thanks to her excellent crew and the good care provided by her company. Her service on the Piraeus-Milos-Agios Nikolaos-Siteia-Kasos-Karpathos lifeline remained flawless for the following five seasons, despite the fact that airlines began to operate regular flights to Kasos and Karpathos, both of which have airports. However, the history of LANE Lines experienced a turning point in 1999. It will eventually seal its demise in the long term, as the company was never the same again following the events that occurred that year. Indeed, the company saw 50% of its stake being acquired by ANEK Lines, one of the largest Cretan operators alongside Minoan Lines. In return, the new shareholder sold one of its ships, the TALOS, which was operating on the Adriatic Sea on the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Ancona-Trieste line, to LANE Lines. The ship was renamed IERAPETRA L, after the famous town of Ierapetra located in the Lasithi region. She was also registered in Agios Nikolaos, and she was deployed on the Piraeus-Milos-Santorini-Agios Nikolaos-Siteia-Kasos-Karpathos-Chalki-Rhodes-Castellorizon lifeline, thus being an additional ship providing a similar service as the one offered by the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS. The latter saw her own service extended as well, as she was inserted on the Piraeus-Milos-Agios Nikolaos-Siteia-Kasos-Karpathos-Chalki-Rhodes-Castellorizon lifeline. Therefore, the Dodecanese islands of Chalki, Rhodes and Castellorizon were added to her itinerary, which went on to be the same as that of the IERAPETRA L, except that the latter was also serving Santorini at the time. With these changes, LANE Lines basically became a satellite company of ANEK Lines, who sought to improve their presence in Crete by controlling most of the services on the island. Just a year after their investment in LANE Lines, they went on to fully acquire Cretan Ferries and their services on the Piraeus-Rethymnon line. The latter's two ferries, the AKRADI (which was sold in 2002 and sunk in 2011) and the PREVELI (which was renamed PREVELIS in 2001), were therefore bought by ANEK Lines. But unlike Cretan Ferries, whose management team merged with that of ANEK Lines, that of LANE Lines continued to represent the company for the time being, and therefore still had control over its services, which continued to be subsidised by the Greek government.
The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS seen in Piraeus in 2000, a year after her company was partly acquired by ANEK Lines. Despite these changes, the ferry continued to operate efficiently for the time being. Picture taken by Aleksi Lindström.
Fortunes for the company began to change as the 21st century began. Indeed, the tragic sinking of the EXPRESS SAMINA of Hellas Ferries (a division of Minoan Flying Dolphins) in Paros on 26 September 2000 and the introduction of newly-built high speed cruiseferries and high speed craft signaled a threat to the older classic ferries on the Aegean Sea. By the start of the 2001 season, the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS was 25 years old, smaller and slower than the IERAPETRA L, and had started to show some signs of weakness. Indeed, the extension of her service until Castellorizon meant that her itinerary was longer, and therefore the daily connection of Agios Nikolaos and Siteia with Piraeus became less frequent. Because of this, passengers willing to go to Lasithi began to prefer traveling with the ships of Minoan Lines, which, despite stopping in Heraklion, were fast enough for them to reach the ports of Lasithi (by driving from Heraklion) before the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS would even reach them as part of her itinerary. This was thanks to the two newly-built cruiseferries, the KNOSSOS PALACE and the FESTOS PALACE (known as the KYDON PALACE since 2020), which served the Piraeus-Heraklion line in just six hours. On the contrary, the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS would reach Agios Nikolaos more than 10 hours after leaving Piraeus. The additional increase of passenger demand for flights to Kasos and Karpathos made things even more hard. Despite these setbacks, the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS continued to operate on the Piraeus-Milos-Agios Nikolaos-Siteia-Kasos-Karpathos-Chalki-Rhodes-Castellorizon lifeline, and still provided decent results, even though she was no longer the acclaimed ferry that had first arrived in Lasithi back in 1994.
In 2003 the ship began operating on the Piraeus-Milos-Santorini-Heraklion-Agios Nikolaos-Siteia-Kasos-Karpathos-Chalki-Rhodes-Castellorizon lifeline, thus serving Santorini and Heraklion for the first time and providing the exact same service as her fleetmate, the IERAPETRA L, which also added Heraklion to her itinerary. Beginning in 2004, in order to generate more revenue and to compete against GA Ferries, LANE Lines decided to have the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS operate alternatively on two different lifelines. The first one was her usual service, spent on the Piraeus-Milos-Santorini-Heraklion-Agios Nikolaos-Siteia-Kasos-Karpathos-Chalki-Rhodes-Castellorizon lifeline. The second one was a lifeline connecting the Northeast Aegean Sea with the Dodecanese, more precisely the Alexandroupolis-Samothraki-Limnos-Mytilene-Chios-Samos-Kalymnos-Kos-Rhodes lifeline. Coincidentally, many of these islands were also served by her sister ship, the ex-VIKING VOYAGER, which entered service in Greece in 2005 as the SAMOTHRAKI of Saos Ferries, operating initially on the Piraeus-Chios-Mytilene-Limnos-Kavala line on the Northeast Aegean Sea. The service of the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS produced favourable reviews, although she still remained more successful when operating on her core service on the Cyclades, Lasithi and the Dodecanese. She continued to perform both services until the end of the 2007 season.
The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS having just arrived in the port of Piraeus during the 2005 summer season. Picture taken by Andreas Wörteler and published on www.faktaomfartyg.se.
The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS having departed Samos in 2005, during her second year operating on the Northeast Aegean Sea-Dodecanese lifeline. Picture taken by Dieter Pots and published on www.shipspotting.com.
The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS seen arriving in the port of Kos in 2006, in what was her third summer operating on the Northeast Aegean Sea-Dodecanese lifeline. It was also her last summer operating for LANE Lines before the latter rebranded themselves as LANE Sea Lines. Picture taken by Dieter Pots and published on www.shipspotting.com
Despite continuous good service by the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS, the year 2006 also proved to be very eventful for the company. Indeed, after generating profits in 2004 and 2005, ANEK Lines decided to remove the key man that was in charge of LANE Lines, Georgios Alevizos, and replaced the board with members of ANEK Lines. In addition, the IERAPETRA L, which had already severely grounded off in Rhodes in 2005, suffered sustainable damage in Rafina. Indeed, she had been chartered for two days by the Greek football club AEK Athens in order to transport its fans from Rafina to Heraklion, where the team was due to play the final of the Greek Cup for that year. As the team ended-up losing, the ship was severely vandalised by angry supporters, and was seriously damaged. She was nevertheless repaired in Perama and returned to her usual service, but the reparation costs due to these brutal actions were very high for the company. Following the change in the management team and the completion of the 2006 season, LANE Lines underwent a brand upgrade, changing their colours, logo and name. Indeed, they were renamed LANE Sea Lines, and both the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS and the IERAPETRA L saw their liveries being upgraded. This was done for marketing reasons, as a way for the company to show that it was undergoing a major fleet renovation despite both its ships being over 30 years old.
The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS seen undergoing her livery upgrade, right after her company became LANE Sea Lines in late 2006. Picture taken by Michele Lulurgas and published on www.adriaticandaegeanferries.com.
The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS seen resting in the port of Piraeus in 2007, which was her first summer under the new livery of the newly-rebranded LANE Sea Lines. Picture taken by Aleksi Lindström.
The first seasons of the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS under the upgraded LANE Sea Lines remained the same, as she continued to provide service on the two lifelines she had been operating on since 2004. She notably faced another familiar ship as one of her competitors. Indeed, on the Northeast Aegean Sea-Dodecanese lifeline, she operated alongside the PENELOPE of Agoudimos Lines, which used to be her fleetmate back when both ships were operating for Townsend Thoresen at the start of their careers. Formerly known as the EUROPEAN GATEWAY, the PENELOPE operated 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, thus operating in many ports also served by the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS.
The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS and the IERAPETRA L seen together in Rhodes in 2007. They were the only two ships LANE Lines/LANE Sea Lines had in their 26-year-long history. The IERAPETRA L left the company in 2009 in order to return to ANEK Lines, for whom she operated until 2014, when she suffered a major fire which partially destroyed her accommodation superstructure. She was ultimately bought by Sea Jets in 2017, and entered service under them as the AQUA BLUE in 2018. As of 2020, she operates on the Lavrion-Agios Eftstratios-Limnos-Kavala line on the Northeast Aegean Sea.
The summer of 2008 turned out to be a very tough one for LANE Sea Lines. Indeed, poor management by the parent company, ANEK Lines, did not help the company in generating appropriate revenue. The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS operated solely on the Piraeus-Milos-Santorini-Heraklion-Agios Nikolaos-Siteia-Kasos-Karpathos-Chalki-Rhodes-Castellorizon lifeline, while the IERAPETRA L was deployed on the Piraeus-Milos-Santorini-Heraklion-Agios Nikolaos-Siteia-Kasos-Karpathos-Chalki-Rhodes-Castellorizon lifeline, as well as on the Thessaloniki-Kavala-Limnos-Mytilene-Chios-Samos line on the Northeast Aegean Sea, a service which earned her mixed reviews. Furthermore, passengers heading towards Lasithi maintained their preference for the port of Heraklion served by the ships of Minoan Lines and ANEK Lines, and Superfast Ferries beginning in 2009. This left the port of Agios Nikolaos in a very vulnerable position, to the point where it was deemed not feasible to continue to have ferries serving it. At the end of the 2008 season, with losses becoming frequent despite the subsidies of the Greek government, and because of disagreements with the crews (which wanted 30% of the subsidies, while the company only wanted to give them 7% of them), both ships were arrested in Piraeus. As a result, all services towards the Cyclades, Lasithi, the Dodecanese and the Northeast Aegean Sea ended. After 14 years, LANE Sea Lines no longer had a permanent ferry connecting Piraeus with Agios Nikolaos and Siteia. When looking at the troubles faced by the company, ANEK Lines decided to make some substantial changes ahead of the 2009 season, in order to help the company survive the upcoming crisis that was slowly beginning to hit the Greek coastal service.
Ten years after their initial investment in LANE Sea Lines, ANEK Lines made the following changes to the services of the former. Indeed, the IERAPETRA L was transferred back to ANEK Lines, and entered service on the Piraeus-Milos-Santorini-Anafi-Heraklion-Siteia-Kasos-Karpathos-Chalki-Rhodes lifeline and on the Piraeus-Patmos-Leipsoi-Leros-Kalymnos-Kos-Symi-Rhodes line on the Dodecanese. The service left by the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS was taken over by the PREVELIS, which was inserted on the new Piraeus-Milos-Santorini-Anafi-Heraklion-Siteia-Kasos-Karpathos-Chalki-Rhodes lifeline, thus completely abandoning Agios Nikolaos and also adding Anafi to her itinerary. As for the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS, she was introduced on a new lifeline: the one connecting Piraeus with the Peloponnese, Kythira, Antikythira and Crete. She was deployed on the Piraeus-Gytheion-Kalamata-Kythira-Antikythira-Kissamos-Rethymnon lifeline. The latter had been left abandoned by the previous company that was serving it on a permanent basis, which was ANEN Lines, another satellite company of ANEK Lines. Their ferry, the MYRTIDIOTISSA (which later became the ALEXANDRA L of Kefalonian Lines in 2018), had ran aground in Kythira in 2008, and the increasing economic problems of the company eventually led them to ceasing their operations. The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS thus covered a line which had no permanent successor, while also serving the port of Rethymnon, which had not been a part of the former itinerary of the MYRTIDIOTISSA.
The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS seen in Piraeus in 2009, during her first summer operating on her new lifeline. Next to her is the PREVELIS, which replaced her on the Kasos-Karpathos lifeline during that same year. Picture taken by Micke Aleksander and published on www.faktaomfartyg.se.
The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS seen in Kalamata during her debut season on the Piraeus-Gytheion-Kalamata-Kythira-Antikythira-Kissamos-Rethymnon lifeline. Picture published on www.nautilia.gr.
The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS seen maneuvering in the very narrow bay where the port of Antikythira is located, during her debut summer on her new lifeline in 2009. Difficult weather in such an area makes it very dangerous for ships to undergo their maneuvering procedures, and can easily result in an accident if the ship is not sailing correctly. Despite these challenges, the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS always performed very well in this port, and this further cemented her status as one of the best ships in the history of the Greek coastal service. Picture taken by the Antikythira Community and published on www.marinetraffic.com .
Despite the Peloponnese-Kythira-Antikythira lifeline being one of the most demanding and difficult lifelines of the Greek coastal service, the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS was an instant success, as she had previously also operated on a similarly-challenging lifeline for 14 years. Thanks to the professionalism of her crew and the leadership of the fantastic Cpt Dimitrios Ladas, her service was very much appreciated, and she therefore helped passengers forget the disappointing spell of the MYRTIDIOTISSA under ANEN Lines. Beginning in 2010, the ship also operated once a week on the Piraeus-Milos-Folegandros-Sikinos-Ios-Santorini-Anafi line on the Cyclades, providing an additional service to all these islands at the start of the 2010s.
The great VITSENTZOS KORNAROS seen leaving Piraeus in 2010. Picture taken by Aleksi Lindström.
The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS seen in the port of Santorini in 2010, during her first summer operating on the additional service provided by her company on the Cyclades. Picture taken by Dimitrios Salpigtis and published on www.shipspotting.com.
Even though the Greek financial crisis began to hit several shipping companies at the start of the 2010s, the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS continued to serve the Peloponnese-Kythira-Antikythira lifeline with much success, even though she was also starting to become one of the oldest ships of the Aegean Sea, By that time, her three sister ships, the MOGADOR and the OUJDA (laid-up since 2006 and 2007 respectively) and the SAMOTHRAKI (laid-up since late 2008) were all sold for scrap between 2010 and 2011. This left the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS as the only ship of the Viking V-class to continue to operate. During the summer of 2011, some changes were made to her itinerary. Indeed, the call to Rethymnon stopped completely, while the port of the picturesque village of Monemvasia, located on the Myrtoan Sea on the Peloponnese, was added. Therefore, besides her service on the Cyclades, the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS was deployed on the Piraeus-Monemvasia-Gytheion-Kalamata-Kythira-Antikythira-Kissamos lifeline. Later that year, she collided with the EUROPEAN EXPRESS of NEL Lines in Piraeus, as she was returning back to the port. Difficult weather conditions caused by intense winds made the LANE Sea Lines ship lose control and hit the NEL Lines ship (which was sold for scrap in early 2019, a year before the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS) with her bow, striking a part of the latter's hull. Both ships were however quickly repaired and returned to their respective services.
My first-ever picture of the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS, taken during the summer of 2013, which was her fifth consecutive on the Peloponnese-Kythira-Antikythira lifeline.
After two other successful summers, the service on the Cyclades and the stops in Monemvasia ended, with LANE Sea Lines focusing solely on the Piraeus-Gytheion-Kalamata-Kythira-Antikythira-Kissamos lifeline ahead of the 2014 season. At the age of 38, the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS was considered by many to be too old to continue operating. Despite the company being supposed to replace her with a younger ferry, the ship continued to operate, although her services began to become a bit more irregular, as poor maintenance in her engines caused a few technical failures which resulted in a few delays. Despite such setbacks, many continued to appreciate the ferry, due to the excellent service provided onboard and the friendliness of her crew. Her front section balcony continued to be a major hit, as such a feature started to become even more rare in Greek ferries.
During the winter of 2015, the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS temporarily returned to her original service, being deployed the Piraeus-Milos-Santorini-Anafi-Heraklion-Siteia-Kasos-Karpathos-Chalki-Rhodes lifeline in order to briefly replace the PREVELIS which was due to undergo her annual refit. Her service started well, but she then had a major accident in Kasos, as she grounded off in the pier of the island's port due to poor weather. The passengers were all safely evacuated, but the ship remained stuck for three days before being successfully brought back to the sea. She was then repaired in Perama and resumed service on the Piraeus-Gytheion-Kalamata-Kythira-Antikythira-Kissamos lifeline. The following winter, she again temporarily replaced the PREVELIS, and again had an accident in Kasos when she hit the port's pier. However, the damage was minor compared to that of the previous year, and she immediately resumed service as usual. That year, despite her turning 40 years old, she had a particularly good season, as she sailed at a very convenient speed, while also maintaining excellent service for passengers in both her indoor and her outdoor areas.
The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS seen resting in Piraeus during the summer fo 2015.
The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS, one of the most hardworking and acclaimed ships of the Greek coastal service, seen taking a well-deserved rest in the port of Piraeus during the summer of 2015.
The veteran ferry VITSENTZOS KORNAROS seen with a 'younger' veteran, the PREVELIS of ANEK Lines, during the summer of 2015. The ship continues to operate on the Piraeus-Milos-Santorini-Anafi-Heraklion-Siteia-Kasos-Karpathos-Chalki-Rhodes lifeline, which had previously been served by the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS from 1994 to 2008. The latter initially served just Milos, Agios Nikolaos and Siteia, but then began to add the other islands to her demanding itinerary, which made her such an acclaimed ship.
The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS seen during the summer of 2016 in Piraeus. This was her last summer operating in Greece, as the following one ended prematurely for her, following her major engine failure.
The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS resting in Piraeus in 2016, in what was my last-ever picture of the ship while she was still operating under LANE Sea Lines.
Ahead of the 2017 summer season, the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS spent the entire spring undergoing her annual refit in Drapetsona. With the residents of Gytheion, Kalamata, Kythira, Antikythira and Kissamos already skeptical due to the lack of service during the Easter season, their fears became more intense when the ship returned to service. Indeed, just two days after her return, she suffered a major engine failure in Piraeus. Deemed irreparable by LANE Sea Lines, all trips were canceled, and the islands of Kythira and Antikythira were left with no service from Piraeus, and as a result they were hit very hard by the lack of tourism. The only service they had was that of the reliable PORFYROUSA of the local company Triton Ferries, which connects them with Neapolis Voion on the Peloponnese. Because of the continued troubles of LANE Sea Lines and their failure in finding a replacement for the mechanically-troubled VITSENTZOS KORNAROS, the Greek Ministry of Shipping and Insular Policy stripped the company of its operating license on the lifeline, and ended the subsidy. At the end of the 2017 season, the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS was moved to Salamina, where she remained for the following three years. LANE Sea Lines was completely abandoned by the parent company ANEK Lines, which has also been facing several economic difficulties these past few years. Their poor management of the Lasithi-based company ended-up sealing the latter's demise. They effectively ceased operations in 2017, after 23 years of continuous service across the Aegean Sea. The service of the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS was taken over in late 2017 by the IONIS of Leve Ferries, which, after having also spent the 2017 season laid-up in Salamina and being bought by Triton Ferries, was inserted on the Piraeus-Gytheion-Kythira-Antikythira-Kissamos lifeline. She remained there until 2020, when she was replaced by the AQUA JEWEL of Sea Jets, the current owners of the former fleetmate of the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS, the ex-IERAPETRA L, now known as the AQUA BLUE.
With an irreparable engine at the age of 41, the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS had little to no hope of ever resuming service again. She therefore suffered the same fate as that of her three sister ships and of many Greek ferries, which was to remain laid-up until making one final trip to the scrapyards. Several auctions were held by the Piraeus Port Authority in order to get rid of the ship, but most of them were unsuccessful.
The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS seen laid-up in Salamina in 2018, just a year after her last trip to Gytheion, Kalamata, Kythira, Antikythira and Kissamos.
The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS laid-up in Salamina during the summer of 2018, with her future remaining uncertain and pessimistic. Previously a legendary ship of the Greek coastal service, and a proven fighter on some of its most demanding lifelines, she was now becoming a victim of the long-term mistakes made by ANEK Lines upon acquiring her owners.
The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS seen in 2018 in Salamina, in the Ambelakia Shipyards, in what turned out to be my last-ever picture of her. I did not expect it to be the case, as she headed for scrap less than two years later. Therefore, this picture is even more meaningful now, as it is my last memory of the historic ferry, which was a joy to so many Greek shipping enthusiasts, including myself.
After being laid-up in Salamina for almost three years, the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS left Greece yesterday as planned, in order to make her first trip in as many years. Unfortunately, it is also her last, as she is now going to meet the same end as that of her sister ships, that of many of her former Townsend Thoresen and P&O European Ferries fleetmates, and that of many of her former Greek competitors. Along with her, LANE Sea Lines is also disappearing forever, as she was the first and last ferry to bear the company's livery on both sides of her hull and on her funnels. The once-ambitious and successful company is now part of history. As I am finishing writing this post, the VITSENTZOS KORNAROS is reaching Aliağa in order to be scrapped, after 44 successful years, with 26 of them being in Greece, the country where she became one of the most beloved ferries of all time.
The VITSENTZOS KORNAROS will forever be remembered as one of the most popular ships in the history of the Greek coastal service. She helped connect Agios Nikolaos and Siteia with Piraeus on a regular basis, and then proceeded to operate on some of the most demanding lifelines of the Aegean Sea. Despite some occasional technical issues, her great crews and her iconic captains made her appear like an unbreakable fighter, up until the very end of her career. Many passengers and shipping enthusiasts were fond of her amenities, particularly her front section balcony which made her long trips across the Aegean Sea even more memorable and iconic. Wherever she operated, she made the best efforts to connect some of Greece's most remote islands with the rest of the country, despite facing competition from younger and faster ferries, and some occasional unfair criticism from 'experts' who considered that they knew everything about the Greek coastal service and its ships. She came to Greece as a legend from North Sea and the Channel, and she left Greece as an acclaimed and dignified ferry, and she will be missed by many. I still regret to have never had the chance to travel with her, but I was at least glad to see her and photograph her when she was still operating efficiently. Therefore, from the bottom of my heart, VITSENTZOS KORNAROS, I would like to thank you for your unique, acclaimed and dignified contribution to the Greek coastal service.
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