• Alexandros Vrailas

Piraeus Morning Visit on 27 July 2019

As you have seen it throughout numerous past Blog posts, I have a particular tendency of going to the port of Piraeus during my spare time every summer that I am spending in Greece. It is always the perfect opportunity for me to see and photograph several ships of the Greek coastal service which are departing from the port to the various destinations of the Aegean Sea. Usually, these visits tend to occur in late afternoons and evenings, but during the summer of 2019 I had the idea of going to see the port during the early morning. The inspiration came from the fact that the vast majority of the departures for areas such as the Cyclades and the Northeast Aegean Sea and the Saronic Gulf occur between 06:40 and 08:00, with ships leaving in the morning so that they can serve their respective destinations during the day and return to Piraeus during the evening. At the same time, there are ships from more distant destinations like Crete that arrive from the latter in order to be present in Athens in the early morning. For a shipping enthusiast like me, this an ideal scenery, as I can see a multitude of ships of different kinds leaving the port in order to bring passengers and/or vehicles to various islands across the Aegean Sea.


I decided to arrive in Piraeus very early in the morning on Saturday 27 July 2019, as I was working during weekdays as an intern with the Greek shipping company Kassian Maritime Ltd for the entire month of July. During weekends, I would usually go to an island with my sister, going to Santorini on 13-14 July and then to Aegina 20-21 July. The following weekend, I decided to go to Agistri on 27 July, and then to Spetses the next day. As the first departure for Agistri was at 08:35, I thought that it was the best opportunity for me to do my early morning visit in Piraeus right before heading towards the Saronic Gulf island. And this turned out to be a great decision, as I managed to see 14 different ships departing and 3 ships docking within a span of less than two hours! Without further ado, let's have a look at the countless pictures I took that morning, before my departure for Agistri.

I arrived in Piraeus from Central Athens at 06:30 (having woken up at 05:00). The first ship that I saw right upon exiting the Piraeus Metro Station was the highly-acclaimed BLUE STAR NAXOS of Blue Star Ferries, which was loading several passengers and vehicles as she was one of the many ships that were due to depart over the upcoming minutes for the Cyclades.

Not far away from the BLUE STAR NAXOS, I spotted the ferry KRITI II of ANEK Lines, which was resting in Piraeus as well. She operates on the Piraeus-Heraklion line, as part of the ANEK-Attica Group joint venture.

And right next to me was another ship owned by Blue Star Ferries, more precisely the cruiseferry BLUE STAR DELOS. Built in 2011, she has spent her entire career so far on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini line, although she does not serve Ios during the summer.

The BLUE STAR NAXOS shortly before her departure from Piraeus. Built nine years before the BLUE STAR DELOS, back in 2002, in the exact same shipyard in South Korea, she has also spent her entire career on the Cyclades. She has also spent the bulk of her years of service on the Lesser Cyclades lifeline, being the only ship to connect the latter islands with Piraeus on a daily basis. Since 2018, she has been operating on the Piraeus-Syros-Paros-Naxos-Irakleia-Schoinousa-Koufonisi-Donousa-Amorgos-Santorini-Astypalaia line.

The BLUE STAR DELOS seen in Piraeus, loading passengers and vehicles as well, as she was also departing the port in order to head to the Cyclades during the day.

The BLUE STAR NAXOS docked in Piraeus, shortly before her morning departure. She connects Piraeus with the Lesser Cyclades on a daily basis through a very tight schedule leaving Piraeus at 06:45 every morning, and returning there the following day at 05:00. The crew only has one hour and thirty minutes to rest before her next departure there. This is why she is such an exceptional ship.

The BLUE STAR DELOS seen in Piraeus. Exactly one year and four days before taking this picture, I had traveled onboard her in order to go from Piraeus to Naxos, which I visited for the first time while spending three days there with my family. This was the first out of the two times that I have traveled with this ship so far, having also traveled onboard her 13 days before taking this picture, while I was heading from Santorini back to Piraeus with my sister.

The BLUE STAR NAXOS seen in Piraeus.

The BLUE STAR DELOS seen in Piraeus. She has been hailed as the best day ferry in Greece since the moment she entered service with Blue Star Ferries back in 2011.

In front of the BLUE STAR DELOS, I spotted a new ship for the first time in my life. It was the high speed ferry SUPEREXPRESS of Golden Star Ferries, which was spending her first-ever summer in Greece.

The KRITI II seen unloading vehicles, as she had returned to Piraeus from Heraklion one hour before my arrival to the port. She has been serving the Piraeus-Heraklion line since 2015, and she also operated there from 2002 to 2008, and from 2010 to early 2011.

In front of the SUPEREXPRESS, I spotted another high speed ferry: the SPEEDRUNNER III of Aegean Speed Lines, which was loading passengers and vehicles as she was also due to depart.

The SUPEREXPRESS seen in Piraeus. She spent her debut season with Golden Star Ferries on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Mykonos-Tinos-Andros-Rafina line, leaving from Piraeus in the morning and arriving in Rafina during the early afternoon.

The SUPEREXPRESS, the most recent acquisition of Golden Star Ferries, seen resting in Piraeus. She was bought in late 2018 through a collaboration between Golden Star Ferries and fellow Greek operator Fast Ferries. This partnership was known as Golden Fast Ferries, and the ship was initially renamed GOLDEN EXPRESS. However, shortly before the start of the 2019 summer season, a dispute between the two operators led to the high speed ferry being fully acquired by Golden Star Ferries, and she was therefore renamed SUPEREXPRESS.

The funnel of the SUPEREXPRESS, which resembles to the typical one found in the first large high speed craft built by the well-known Incat shipyard, which is located in Australia. It was only painted in blue, without any logo or drawing being added.

The BLUE STAR NAXOS seen in Piraeus at dawn, right before her departure.

The SUPEREXPRESS docked in Piraeus, during her first season in Greece.

A frontal view of the BLUE STAR DELOS, in what was her eighth summer operating in Greece.

I then saw a particular pair of ships: the two ferries owned by Zante Ferries, the DIONISIOS SOLOMOS and the ADAMANTIOS KORAIS. Both of them operate on the Western Cyclades.

Not far from them was the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN XVII of Hellenic Seaways, which operates on the Saronic Gulf, serving the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line.

As I was heading towards the South, I spotted the cruiseferry KNOSSOS PALACE of Minoan Lines having docked in Piraeus, after having arrived from Heraklion. Built in 2000, she is the flagship of Minoan Lines and has spent her entire career on the Piraeus-Heraklion line. Since 2018 she has also been on the Piraeus-Milos-Heraklion line.

A view of the FLYING DOLPHIN XVII, which was seen at the right side of her fleetmate, the high speed catamaran FLYINGCAT 3. The latter also serves the Saronic Gulf, as she is deployed on the Piraeus-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line.

The ADAMANTIOS KORAIS, seen alongside the high speed ferry TERA JET, which is the flagship of Sea Jets.

The TERA JET docked in Piraeus. It was her first season on the Piraeus-Paros-Ios-Santorini line, which was a new service introduced by Sea Jets in 2019.

The ADAMANTIOS KORAIS seen in Piraeus shortly before her morning departure. She first began service in Greece under Zante Ferries in 2008, when she was deployed on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini. Since 2009, she has been on the Western Cyclades lifeline, and more specifically on the Piraeus-Kythnos-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos-Folegandros-Sikinos-Ios-Santorini line. She is the flagship of Zante Ferries.

The KNOSSOS PALACE having docked in Piraeus at dawn. This was also her first summer operating under the new exhaust gas cleaning system which she acquired during a small conversion in Malta during the winter of 2018-2019. With this new system, she consumes less sulphur oil and is therefore more environmentally-friendly.

The SPEEDRUNNER III is also seen in Piraeus at dawn.

Right next to her, I spotted the cruiseferry NISSOS MYKONOS of Hellenic Seaways, which was seen resting before her morning departure.

Another view of the DIONISIOS SOLOMOS alongside the ADAMANTIOS KORAIS and the TERA JET at dawn.

Towards 06:50, I finally saw the first departure of the day. It was the SUPEREXPRESS, which was seen leaving the port in order to head towards the Cyclades and Rafina.

The impressive SUPEREXPRESS seen leaving Piraeus at dawn.

The SUPEREXPRESS on her way towards the exit of the port of Piraeus. Before arriving in Greece, she had a very eventful career, having operated for Argentinian company Buquebus as the CATALONIA L in Spain (1998-2004) and alternatively as the PORTSMOUTH EXPRESS for P&O Portsmouth/P&O Ferries during the summer (2000-2004, and in the winter she would return to Buquebus as the CATALONIA) on the Cherbourg-Portsmouth line on the Channel. She was then sold to P&O Ferries in 2005, was renamed EXPRESS and operated on the Troon-Cairnryan-Larne line on the Irish Sea from 2005 to 2012 and then on the Troon-Larne line from 2013 until the latter service was closed in late 2015. She was then sold in 2016 to Swedish company Gotlandsbåten and had an unsuccessful season on the Västervik-Visby-Nynäshamn line on the Baltic Sea. She then had brief charters to Viking Line in 2017 (where she operated under the commercial name VIKING FSTR) and then to Naviera Armas in 2018, before arriving in Greece in order to continue her career.

The SUPEREXPRESS seen leaving Piraeus in the morning. At the very beginning of her career, she had a notable accolade. Indeed, she made history by capturing the Blue Riband Challenge Trophy (also known as the Hales Trophy) for having made the fastest Eastbound Atlantic Ocean crossing, while performing her delivery voyage from New York to Ceuta. Her record however lasted just six weeks, as it was then surpassed by her younger sister ship, the CAT-LINK V of Scandlines (now the FJORD CAT of Norwegian company Fjord Line).

The SUPEREXPRESS on her way towards the exit of the port of Piraeus. Her first season on the Cyclades under Golden Star Ferries was generally well-received. Despite encountering a few mechanical troubles which resulted in a few delays, she was praised for her indoor amenities, which were fully renovated during the conversion in Perama and in Salamina before her entry to service. Her indoor lounge areas are considered to be some of the most modern of any high speed craft in Greece.

Another view of the SUPEREXPRESS as she departs Piraeus. She became the fourth high speed craft to be acquired by Golden Star Ferries, while also being the second high speed ferry to join the company. The first one was the SUPERRUNNER, formerly the SPEEDRUNNER IV of Aegean Speed Lines (2009-2016), which entered service for Golden Star Ferries on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini line in 2017.

The SUPEREXPRESS seen heading towards the exit of the port of Piraeus in order to sail towards Paros. She is registered in Piraeus, whereas the SUPERRUNNER is registered in Andros, which is the home island of the owners of Golden Star Ferries, the Stefanou brothers.

The SUPEREXPRESS heading towards the exit of the port of Piraeus. In this picture, one can see the high speed ferry's well-known stern glass window, which allows passengers to have a complete view of the sea from the ship's indoor areas.

The SUPEREXPRESS on her way towards the exit of the port of Piraeus, heading towards Paros. She was the first ship to leave the port that day.

While the SUPEREXPRESS was leaving, I unexpectedly noticed the presence of a ferry which has not frequently been to Piraeus over the past few years. This ferry was the AQUA BLUE of Sea Jets (operating under the Sea Jets Ferries division), which was undergoing her final preparations before entering service for her company during the summer.

Built in 1975 in Japan and present in Greece since 1990, the AQUA BLUE was spending her second season under Sea Jets. After having spent her debut summer under the latter on the extremely long Thessaloniki-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos-Andros-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos-Santorini-Heraklion line, she operated on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Ikaria-Samos line in 2019.

The AQUA BLUE seen docked in Piraeus. Before joining Sea Jets Ferries, she was the notable IERAPETRA L of ANEK Lines (from 2009 to 2016) and of LANE Sea Lines (from 1999 to 2009). She had also operated earlier in her Greek career under ANEK Lines having served the Adriatic Sea initially as the KYDON (1991-1995) and then as the TALOS (1995-1999). Her debut season under Sea Jets Ferries marked her first summer of operations since 2014, when she had been operating on the Bari-Durrës line. After that year's summer, she suffered a severe fire incident while heading from Igoumenitsa to Perama for her annual refit, and was badly damaged. Due to her advanced age and her damages following that fire, it was believed that she would be sold for scrap. However, miraculously, the ship was saved by Sea Jets Ferries, which bought her and repaired her in Perama and in Drapetsona in 2017, renaming her AQUA BLUE in 2018.

The AQUA BLUE seen in Piraeus. She headed to Rafina just a week after this picture was taken, and she began service on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Ikaria-Samos line, which was another new service introduced by Sea Jets in 2019.

Right after the SUPEREXPRESS had departed and exited Piraeus, I saw the BLUE STAR NAXOS leaving the port as well.

The BLUE STAR NAXOS having left Piraeus in order to perform her very long and very busy itinerary on the Lesser Cyclades.

The BLUE STAR NAXOS leaving Piraeus in order to head towards her first destination: Syros. She has been one of the best ships of the Greek coastal service since she first arrived in 2002.

The BLUE STAR NAXOS heading towards the exit of the port of Piraeus, in what was her eighteenth summer in Greece under Blue Star Ferries.

The BLUE STAR NAXOS on her way towards the exit of the port of Piraeus.

The BLUE STAR NAXOS beginning to approach the exit of the port of Piraeus.

Right behind her, I spotted the third ship departing Piraeus that day. It was the small high speed catamaran SEA JET 2 of Sea Jets, which operated for the first time on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Folegandros-Ios-Santorini-Amorgos-Koufonisi-Naxos-Paros-Mykonos line, whereupon she formed a duo with her sister ship, the SUPER JET.

The BLUE STAR NAXOS about to exit the port of Piraeus in order to begin her long journey, while the much-older AQUA BLUE is watching.

The SEA JET 2 seen leaving Piraeus as well, in what was her fourteenth summer under Sea Jets.

The SEA JET 2 having left Piraeus during the morning. Built in 1998, she began service as the MIRAGE for Strintzis Lines on the Saronic Gulf. The following year she was renamed SEA JET 2 and was transferred to the Cyclades, where she has since been remaining. In 2000, after Strintzis Lines was taken over by Attica Group, the company Blue Star Ferries was established. She operated for them under the Blue Star Jets division, until 2006, when she was bought by Sea Jets (which had bought her sister ship two years earlier). She became the second ship to join the company, and has been one of the most reliable passenger-only high speed craft to operate in Greece.

The SEA JET 2 heading towards the exit of the port of Piraeus. Her sister ship, the SUPER JET, would depart from Mykonos in the morning in order to perform the opposite itinerary from the latter to Piraeus. She would then leave Piraeus the following morning, while during that same moment the other ship would be departing from Mykonos. This was done in order to allow both ships to serve all these islands under less time constraints and with less hours of work for their crews. Before that, the SEA JET 2 would perform a similar trip, on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Folegandros-Ios-Santorini-Amorgos-Koufonisi-Naxos-Mykonos line, from 2016 to 2018. She would leave Piraeus in the morning and return late at night. This tight schedule occasionally caused her to have engine troubles. After Sea Jets decided to have two ships operate on the newly-formed Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Folegandros-Ios-Santorini-Amorgos-Koufonisi-Naxos-Paros-Mykonos line, both sister ships had more time to rest and rarely had issues with their engines.

The SEA JET 2 seen leaving Piraeus and heading towards the port's exit.

The SEA JET 2 on her way out of Piraeus, following the BLUE STAR NAXOS.

Right after the SEA JET 2 had passed by me, I saw another high speed craft owned by Golden Star Ferries leaving Piraeus. It was the small high speed catamaran SUPERCAT.

The SUPERCAT having also departed Piraeus. The summer of 2019 marked her debut season in Greece under Golden Star Ferries. She was deployed on the Piraeus-Milos-Folegandros-Santorini-Ios-Naxos-Mykonos line.

The SUPERCAT seen leaving Piraeus during her first season with Golden Star Ferries. It was overall successful, although she occasionally experienced some technical issues which resulted in a few delays and some canceled trips. However, her season was far better than that of the company's other passenger-only high speed craft, the SUPERSPEED, which saw her season on the Rafina-Syros-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos-Koufonisi-Amorgos line end prematurely due to a major engine failure that she suffered in Naxos.

The SUPERCAT passing by me in Piraeus. Before arriving in Greece under Golden Star Ferries in 2018, she had operated between 2009 and 2017 on the Tallinn-Helsinki line on the Baltic Sea as the KAROLIN of Estonian company Linda Line, thus linking the respective capital cities of Estonia and Finland in just 90 minutes. Before her stint there, she operated between 2000 (the year during which she was built) and 2008 on the North Sea as the POLARSTERN of German company AG Ems, linking several ports of Germany and The Netherlands with the German islands of Borkum and Heligoland.

Another view of the SUPERCAT as she is seen leaving Piraeus while following one of her rivals, the SEA JET 2.

The SUPERCAT heading towards the exit of the port of Piraeus.

The next ship that was seen departing the port of Piraeus was the exceptional high speed ferry WORLDCHAMPION JET of Sea Jets, which also spent her debut season in Greece, having been acquired by her current owners in late 2018.

The WORLDCHAMPION JET seen leaving Piraeus, with her fleetmate, the TERA JET, seen following her from right behind. Both high speed ferries are considered to be the best ships of Sea Jets.

The much-acclaimed WORLDCHAMPION JET passing by me while she heads towards the exit of the port of Piraeus. In her first season under Sea Jets, she was deployed on the Piraeus-Syros-Mykonos-Naxos-Santorini line. Her introduction was a massive success, as she became the fastest ferry on the Aegean Sea, and also managed to connect Piraeus with Santorini via three other Cyclades islands in barely four hours! She did not have any technical issues and was always on schedule. Also praised for her impressive indoor areas and for the excellent service offered by the crew onboard, she cemented Sea Jets' presence on the Cyclades.

The WORLDCHAMPION JET seen leaving Piraeus. Just a few days ago, her impressive first year in Greece was further recognised through a prestigious accolade, as she won the much-coveted 'Ship of the Year' award given by Lloyd's List Greek Shipping Awards for 2019. She became the first ship of the Greek coastal service to win this award since 2007, when the then-newly-built cruiseferry NISSOS CHIOS of Hellenic Seaways won it during that year. The latter's sister ship and fleetmate, the NISSOS MYKONOS, also won that same award a year earlier, in 2006. The WORLDCHAMPION JET therefore joins the two Hellenic Seaways sister ships as the only three Greek coastal service ships to have won the prestigious award.

The WORLDCHAMPION JET seen leaving Piraeus during the morning in order to head towards Syros, Mykonos, Naxos and Santorini.

The WORLDCHAMPION JET seen leaving Piraeus. Her impressive résumé also includes the fact that she was the fastest passenger ship in the world when she was completed in Australia in 2000 in order to enter service for Danish company Bornholmer Færgen (formerly known as Bornholms Traffiken) as the VILLUM CLAUSEN. She also held the world record for the fastest-ever crossing made by a ship of her kind until 2013, when it was surpassed by the then-newly-built high speed ferry FRANCISCO of Buquebus (the former owners of the SUPEREXPRESS).

The extremely successful WORLDCHAMPION JET leaving Piraeus in order to head towards her first destination: Syros.

The TERA JET seen leaving Piraeus right behind the WOLRDCHAMPION JET.

The TERA JET seen departing in Piraeus at dawn. Since entering service for Sea Jets in 2014, she has been the company's flagship. She notably had spells on the Heraklion-Cyclades service in 2014 and in 2015, before operating on the Piraeus-Chios-Mytilene line in 2016 in order to help transport Syrian refugees that had arrived in these two islands to Athens. In 2017 and in 2018, she had a tremendously successful service connecting Rafina with the Cyclades, which helped cement Sea Jets' presence in the area. For 2019, she operated extremely well on the new service introduced by her company, and has generally been a very acclaimed high speed ferry in Greece.

The TERA JET leaving Piraeus in order to head towards Paros, Ios and Santorini.