ORION III Tribute and Moments of Trip
Trip: 8 September 2021. From Rion to Antirrion, with the ORION III of Farmakoris-Villiotis NE.
The double-ended ferry ORION III was ordered in 2017 by the Greek company Farmakoris-Villiotis NE, right after her sister ship and fleetmate, the ORION II, was sold to the Mexican company Ultramar during her own construction. She was completed in Greece in 2018, and was inserted on the Perama-Salamina line. She is the fourth double-ended ferry to have been ordered by the company, following the ORION (built in 2016 and sold in 2017 to the Turkish company Şehir Hatları, for whom she operates as the ŞH AŞIYAN) and the CHRYSA (built in 2017). In 2019 she was deployed on the Megara-Salamina line, before heading back to the Perama-Salamina line in 2020. In 2021 she was deployed on the Rion-Antirrion line, while in 2022 she returned to the Perama-Salamina line.
The ORION III has been one of the many double-ended ferries that were built in Greece during the late 2010s, having succeeded two double-ended ferries that were under her company's ownership for a very brief time. While she has so far spent each year of her career on a different service, she has been noted for being able to operate across various short-distance services of the Greek coastal service. She is the flagship of her company, which also owns two double landing craft that were also built in 2018, namely the ALKYON and the ALKYON II. Both the ORION III and the CHRYSA operate under the Salamina Ferries joint venture.
On 8 September 2021, the ORION III would become the protagonist of a historic moment for me, as she became the ship on which I traveled while sailing on the famed Rion-Antirrion line for the first time in my life This was a very special moment for me as an enthusiast of the Greek coastal service. Indeed, the Rion-Antirrion line was the one on which a ferry operated in Greece for the first time in history. Indeed, that was back in 1946, when the legendary landing craft SOKRATIS IASEMIDIS of KYDEP (a former landing craft that participated in the 1944 Normandy landings during World War II, which later became the EVGENIA P of Enosis Egchorion and was still operating until 2011, before being laid-up in Elefsina and then unfortunately damaged by a fire in 2015) began operations there. With this introduction, a ferry was used to operate on the Rion Strait, which is located between the Corinthian Gulf and the Patraic Gulf on the Ionian Sea. The latter corresponds to the shortest distance separating the Peloponnese from Western mainland Greece. Having a ferry linking the towns of Rion (located on the Peloponnese) and Antirrion (located in Aetoli-Arcanania, which is part of the Western Greece region, and literally 'opposite of Rion' in Greek) enabled a connection of the aforementioned regions without vehicles needing to head to Corinth, which required additional driving hours at a time during which the Greek national roads were extremely underdeveloped. The success of the SOKRATIS IASEMIDIS prompted many companies to deploy landing craft on the Rion-Antirrion line, as well as other short-distance services in Greece. Eventually, the Rion-Antirrion line became extremely popular and went on to feature many well-known landing craft which had acclaimed careers in the Greek coastal service. During the early 2000s, they were also joined by double-ended ferries. However, the ferry service on the Rion-Antirrion line was heavily impacted following the opening of the Rion-Antirrion Bridge in 2004, which took a significant share of the vehicles traveling along the Rion Strait. However, despite many people believing that the ferry service would be made redundant, it eventually prevailed, especially during the 2010s (as a result of the Greek financial crisis), as the bridge's high toll fees resulted in passengers and lorries preferring the use of the cheaper ferries. Eventually, the return of double-ended ferries in 2011 gave the line a fresh outlook, with these larger and more modern ferries providing better services at a greater capacity. Over time, the double-ended ferries eventually phased out the landing craft, with only one remaining there as of 2022. The 2021 season featured 14 ships operating on the Rion-Antirrion line, with 12 of them being double-ended ferries from the Salamina Ferries joint venture and the Agios Nikolaos Lines joint venture. Most of these double-ended ferries have been based on the Perama-Salamina line, and are assigned for one season (for most of the time, although some ships have stayed for two or three consecutive seasons) on the Rion-Antirrion line before returning back to Salamina.
So this is a quick overview of the Rion-Antirrion line, which plays a vital role in the history of the Greek coastal service and which has been able to uphold the competition against a very modern and impressive bridge. As I would go to Zakynthos every summer, I would usually see the bridge and the ferries based in Rion, as the latter was along the way while traveling from Athens to Kyllini and vice versa. However, I never had the chance to see the ferries from a closer view, and therefore I decided to use the remaining days of my summer stay in Greece for the 2021 season to visit Rion and Patras, just two days after having visited the port of Lavrion. After seeing several ships docked in Rion, I then decided to travel onboard the ORION III in order to head to Antirrion and take pictures of all the ferries that I would be seeing along the way. As such, I traveled for the first time on the Rion-Antirrion line, and it was my first-ever trip with a double-ended ferry on the Ionian Sea. In addition, it was my first-ever trip with a ship of Farmakoris-Villiotis NE.
A view of the ORION III in Rion, shortly before embarking onboard her. This was the fourth season of her career, and her first one on the Rion-Antirrion line.
Next to the ORION III was the double-ended ferry PROTOPOROS XIV of Tsokos Lines. Built in 2018 (the same year as the ORION III) in Greece, she has so far spent her entire career on the Rion-Antirrion line.
Another double-ended ferry that I saw in Rion was the PROKOPIOS M of Dimitrios P NE.
The PROTOPOROS XIV seen docked right next to the ORION III in Rion.
Another view of the PROKOPIOS M as she is seen docked in Rion. She was built in 2003 in Greece for Dimitrios P NE. She operated on the Perama-Salamina line from 2003 to 2013, and also from 2015 to 2019. During the 2014 season, she was deployed on the Rion-Antirrion line, where she has returned since the 2020 season.
A view of the ORION III right upon embarkation. Like most double-ended ferries, she has a wide open garage, which passes under her accommodation superstructure. She also has side ramps which allow the passengers to take the staircases that lead to the accommodation superstructure. Right above the garage is her name, printed in Greek characters.
Right after embarking, I proceeded to head to the lower deck of the accommodation superstructure, which features the ship's indoor lounge area. The central section features several rows of white lounge seats, with some of them also having wooden tables attached to the floor.
A view of the ship's bar, located at the corner of the indoor lounge area found in the lower deck of the ship's accommodation superstructure. Its base is decorated with several stickers stating the words 'Passion', 'Charm', 'Love', 'Vision', 'Harmony', 'Grace', 'Altruism' and 'Enthusiasm'. A very interesting feature that I never seen before onboard a Greek ferry.
In addition to the typical lounge seats, the indoor lounge area in the lower deck of the ship's accommodation superstructure also had a few comfortable gray chairs right next to the bar.
A view of one of the two entrances of the ship, with the side ramps leading passengers to the accommodation superstructure.
A view of the middle deck and of the upper deck of the ship's accommodation superstructure. The former has the ship's main outdoor areas and seats as well as the crew cabins, while the latter features the ship's bridge. A red stripe separating the two decks also features the IMO number of the ORION III, which is the number 9848807.
A view of the outdoor area in the middle deck of the accommodation superstructure, which features several rows of white plastic chairs facing each other and being attached to the floor.
Another view of the white chairs seen in the ship's outdoor area in the middle deck of the accommodation superstructure.
The starboard side alley leading passengers to each section of the ship in the middle deck of the accommodation superstructure. Once again, one can see numerous rows of white plastic chairs, with the ones located next to the crew cabins facing towards the sea.
Another view of the outdoor area in the middle deck of the ship's accommodation superstructure.
A view of one of the four funnels of the PROTOPOROS XIV, which features her owner's initial written against a red background, as the latter is the company's colour.
While looking towards the North and the Rion Strait, I spotted the double-ended ferry AGIOS ELEFTHERIOS IV of Feidias NE, which was heading towards Antirrion.
At about 13:00, the ORION III departed the port of Rion in order to head to Antirrion. Here is a view of the PROTOPOROS XIV, which was operating on the Rion-Antirrion for the fourth summer in a row.
As the ORION III departed, I also took a picture of the PROKOPIOS M, which was spending her second consecutive season on the Rion-Antirrion line. It was also her third season there overall, as she also operated there during the summer of 2014.
A view of the PROTOPOROS XIV in Rion. Contrary to what her name suggests, she was actually the thirteenth ship to join Tsokos Lines, as the PROTOPOROS XI was only delivered in 2019, hence a year after the PROTOPOROS XIV.
Another ship that happened to be docked in the port of Rion was the MICHAIL N of Nikolaïdis NE, another double-ended ferry originating from Salamina.
A view of the MICHAIL N, which was also built in 2018 in Greece, just like the ORION III and the PROTOPOROS XIV. This was her first season on the Rion-Antirrion line, after having operated on the Perama-Salamina line from 2018 to 2020.
Another view of the PROTOPOROS XIV, which is one of the four ferries that are part of the current fleet of Tsokos Lines.
The MICHAIL N and the PROTOPOROS XIV seen together in Rion, as the ORION III has departed the port.
A view of the main 'competitor' of the ORION III, namely the impressive Rion-Antirrion Bridge. Officially known as the Charilaos Trikoupis Bridge, it is the longest bridge in Greece, as well as one of the longest multi-span cable-stayed bridges in the world. Its construction began in 1998, and it opened during the summer of 2004. Ever since it became operational, it has played a crucial role in connecting the Peloponnese with mainland Greece, and especially the Western part of the country.
Another view of the PROKOPIOS M, which is one of the three double-ended ferries owned by Dimitrios P NE. The other two are the DIMITRIOS P and the TELAMON, which were both built in 2000. The latter also operated on the Rion-Antirrion line during the 2021 season, while having also been inserted there in 2020 alongside the PROKOPIOS M.
The PROTOPOROS XIV seen docked in Rion. When she entered service on the Rion-Antirrion line in 2018, she succeeded the PROTOPOROS VIII (built in 2016), which had been deployed there during the 2017 season. However, after that season ended, the ship was sold to Thassian Sea Lines, for whom she has been operating on the Keramoti-Thassos line as the DIMITRIOS CH.
The MICHAIL N, the PROTOPOROS XIV and the PROKOPIOS M seen docked together in Rion.
Another view of the veteran double-ended ferry PROKOPIOS M in Rion.
The MICHAIL N seen in Rion. She is the second ship in the history of the company to bear that name, with the first one having been a double-ended ferry that operated for Nikolaïdis NE from 2002 until 2016. She was sold to Şehir Hatları, which is the same company that owns the ex-ORION that had operated for Farmakoris-Villiotis NE between 2016 and 2017. The original MICHAIL N has been operating as the ŞH ERGUVAN since 2017.
Another view of the Rion-Antirrion Bridge, which dominates the Rion Strait. Her overall length is 2,380 metres.
Another view of the MICHAIL N and the PROTOPOROS XIV, which were built 15 years after the PROKOPIOS M, which is in the right corner of the picture.
The PROTOPOROS XIV seen docked in Rion. She is the second largest ferry of Tsokos Lines, as she is slightly smaller than the PROTOPOROS X. The latter is the flagship of the company.
Another view of the Rion-Antirrion Bridge, as we sail right beside it.
One last view of the MICHAIL N, the PROTOPOROS XIV and the PROKOPIOS M.
As the ORION III continued to maker her way towards Antirrion, I spotted a ferry that was heading towards the opposite direction. Indeed, it was the landing craft KAPTAN STAVROS of Kaptan Stavros NE.
The KAPTAN STAVROS seen sailing towards Rion. Built in 1979 in Greece, she was one of the two landing craft that were still operating on the Rion-Antirrion line during the 2021 season. She was also the ship with the most experience on the line, as she had first been deployed there in 2010.
The KAPTAN STAVROS seen as she sails to Rion. Before being introduced on the Rion-Antirrion line in 2010, she had spent three decades on the North Evoian Gulf, as she operated on the Arkitsa-Aidipsos line from 1979 to 2007 and then on the Glyfa-Agiokampos line from 2007 to 2009.
The KAPTAN STAVROS seen sailing on the Rion Strait as she makes her way from Antirrion to Rion. She has had a lengthy career in Greece, and she has shown no signs of slowing down.
The KAPTAN STAVROS seen during her twelfth consecutive season on the Rion-Antirrion line.
The all-white KAPTAN STAVROS seen sailing between Antirrion and Rion. Throughout her entire career, she has been under the ownership of Kaptan Stavros NE.
Another view of the KAPTAN STAVROS, while she heads to Rion. Since last month, she has been deployed on the Megara-Salamina line, after having spent 12 years on the Rion-Antirrion line. This makes her the fourth ferry to join the Megara-Salamina line (where the ORION III had also operated in the past, as she was deployed there during the 2019 season), and this also became the fourth line on which she was deployed during her career.
The KAPTAN STAVROS seen during what turned out to be the last season of her career on the Rion-Antirrion line, as she now serves the Megara-Salamina line.
The KAPTAN STAVROS seen once again, with the Rion-Antirrion Bridge spotted right behind her.
The KAPTAN STAVROS, which was built 39 years before the ORION III, seen sailing towards Rion.
One final view of the KAPTAN STAVROS, as she sails towards the port of Rion.
After 10 minutes, I had a clearer view of the port of Antirrion, which we were about to approach. There, I spotted the landing craft NIKOLAOS A of Anatiolotakis NE and the AGIOS ELEFTHERIOS IV.
The NIKOLAOS A and the AGIOS ELEFTHERIOS IV seen docked together in Antirrion.
Another view of the Rion-Antirrion Bridge, whose construction has been widely praised by engineers as the Rion Strait is known to have deep waters and for being an area of prominent seismic activity.
The AGIOS ELEFTHERIOS IV seen docked in Antirrion. She was built in 2002 in Greece, and became the fourth ship to operate for Feidias NE. She spent the first two years of her career on the Rion-Antirrion line, whereupon she became one of the first double-ended ferries to begin her career on that specific service. However, the opening of the Rion-Antirrion Bridge forced her company to deploy her on the Perama-Salamina line in 2004. She remained there until 2020, with the sole exception being during the 2017 season, when she served the Arkitsa-Aidipsos line on the North Evoian Gulf. The summer of 2021 marked her first summer back on the Rion-Antirrion line after a 17-year-long absence.
The AGIOS ELEFTHERIOS IV seen in Antirrion, during her first season on the Rion-Antirrion line since 2004.
The AGIOS ELEFTHERIOS IV seen resting in the port of Antirrion. Coincidentally, another ship that was serving the Rion-Antirrion line during the 2021 season was her former fleetmate, the ex-AGIOS ELFTHERIOS III, which has been known as the AGIOS NIKOLAOS L of Agios Nikolaos Shipping since 2009. I had spotted that ship in the port of Rion, in the area where some double-ended ferries were resting as they would only be deployed during the late afternoon and during the evening.
A view of the veteran ferry NIKOLAOS A, which was also built in 1979 in Greece, just like the KAPTAN STAVROS. Along the latter, they were the oldest ships serving the Rion-Antirrion line in 2021, as well as the only two remaining landing craft to operate there during that year. The NIKOLAOS A also happens to be the ferry with the most experience on the line, as she was first deployed there in 2002, hence eight years before the KAPTAN STAVROS.
The NIKOLAOS A seen resting in Antirrion, during her twentieth consecutive season on the Rion-Antirrion line. Before entering service there in 2002, she had previously spent 23 years on the Preveza-Aktion line on the Ambracian Gulf. However, this service was discontinued following the completion of the Preveza-Aktion Undersea Tunnel in 2002, after which ferry traffic was made redundant. Because of this, the NIKOLAOS A moved to the Rion-Antirrion line. Despite the subsequent construction of the Rion-Antirrion Bridge, which was believed to also bring an end to the ferry service on the Rion Strait, the landing craft continued to stay there. Nevertheless, the past few years have seen the ship struggling against the rising competition caused by the deployment of the Salamina-based double-ended ferries.
The NIKOLAOS A seen docked in Antirrion. Following the departure of the KAPTAN STAVROS which moved to the Megara-Salamina line, she is now the last landing craft that still operates on the Rion-Antirrion line.
The NIKOLAOS A seen in the port of Antirrion. Despite her being the last landing craft operating on the Rion-Antirrion line, there have been many rumours regarding her future, including a potential sale for service on the Aegean Sea.
Another view of the AGIOS ELEFTHERIOS IV, which has since returned to the Perama-Salamina line, after the 2021 season was completed.
Passing by the AGIOS ELEFTHERIOS IV as we are about to dock in Antirrion.
Another view of the veteran landing craft NIKOLAOS A, as she is resting in Antirrion.
The AGIOS ELEFTHERIOS IV seen once again in the port of Antirrion.
The NIKOLAOS A seen as we are about to dock right next to her in Antirrion.
Another view of the NIKOLAOS A, which is currently undergoing her winter refit in Rion.
The NIKOLAOS A seen at 13:20, right when the ORION III had finished her docking procedure in Antirrion.
A view of the NIKOLAOS A in Antirrion, shortly after I disembarked from the ORION III.
The ORION III seen in Antirrion, shortly after I completed my trip with her.
One final view of the ORION III, just after she had docked in Antirrion. This was her first season on the Rion-Antirrion line, and she also became the third ship in the history of her company to operate there. The first one was the landing craft POSEIDONAS (today the ANTIGONE of Saronic Ferries, which is due to begin service on the Piraeus-Northern Aegina line this year), which operated there in 2011. The second one is the CHRYSA, which spent the 2020 season there.
This therefore marks the end of this post, which showed several interesting ships that served a line that has seen a ferry connection for more than 75 years, and whose historical contribution to the Greek coastal service cannot be understated. I had the opportunity to travel by ferry across the Rion Strait for the first time, and I was happy to do it with a simple yet modern ferry such as the ORION III, which perfectly fits the requirements for a short-distance trip on the Rion-Antirrion line. The latter has prevailed, despite the strong competition caused by the construction of the Rion-Antirrion Bridge, thanks to the deployment of several modern double-ended ferries that have contributed to the traffic being less congestive and the duration of the trip being far shorter, in addition to the competitive prices compared to the bridge's hill toll fees.
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