Rafina Morning Visit on 3 August 2019
Just one week after I went to Piraeus during the early morning in order to see the different ferries that were making their respective morning departures and arrivals from and to the port, I found myself going to another well-known port for the similar reason. This port happened to be the second most important one of the region of Attica (after Piraeus): the port of Rafina. Indeed, my father very kindly thought to bring me to that port just before 07:00 in order to witness and photograph all the morning departures of the ferries and high speed craft that connect it with the Cyclades, Crete and the Northeast Aegean Sea. This consisted in both of us waking up at 05:00 in order to reach the port in time, and for that I was extremely grateful to him for doing this just so that I could see several well-known ships and take pictures of them. Therefore, this post is dedicated to him.
Before showing you my pictures, I thought that it was a good idea to provide you with a quick historical background of the port of Rafina. Indeed, it is located on the Eastern coat of the region of Attica, not far from the Athens International Airport, and North of Lavrion. The position of the port is convenient for ships that travel to Evoia, the Northeast Aegean Sea and the Northern Cyclades islands of Andros, Tinos and Mykonos, as a departure from Piraeus means that reaching these areas implies traveling around Cape Sounion, which requires more time. Therefore, Rafina is preferred by passengers wanting to go to Andros, as they can reach it in just two hours, and even less if they travel with a high speed craft. Moreover, ships can also connect Attica with Evoia through the Rafina-Marmari line, with the port of Karystos having also been formerly served by ferries.
The port of Rafina was already used by passenger ships since the 1910s, but it was during the 1960s and 1970s that it began to experience a significant rise. This was initially the case with the ships of the Rafina-Marmari-Karystos line, and then the ones serving Andros, Tinos and later Mykonos. Towards the late 1970s and early 1980s, several companies like Polemis Epirus Line, NEL Lines, Goutos Lines and Nomicos Lines became prominent by inserting very popular ferries for service on the Cyclades, the Sporades and the Northeast Aegean Sea. Later in the 1980s, companies like Agoudimos Lines, Strintzis Lines and Ventouris Ferries also deployed very large and fast conventional ferries. Strintzis Lines notably inserted the legendary EPTANISOS on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Syros line in 1984, and her success helped cement the company's presence on the Aegean Sea, as well as the status of Rafina as a major departure port towards the Cyclades. The company then proceeded to deploying several other successful ships from Rafina during the 1990s, such as the original SUPERFERRY (later the BLUE AEGEAN of Blue Star Ferries) in 1992, the iconic SUPERFERRY II (which still operates on the line today) in 1993, the then-newly-built high speed catamaran SEA JET 1 (known as the SUPER JET of Sea Jets since 2004) in 1995, and later her sister ship, the SEA JET 2 (also owned by Sea Jets, since 2006) in 1999, before they were acquired by Attica Group in 2000, which resulted in the creation of Blue Star Ferries. In the meantime, Agoudimos Lines deployed the historic PENELOPE A on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line in 1992, and remained a major presence in Rafina, alongside Ventouris Ferries (which owned the legendary BARI EXPRESS), Goutos Lines (which also introduced two newly-built catamarans in 1996 and 1998, respectively), and Agapitos Express Ferries, but all of their ships operating on the Cyclades were acquired by the newly-established company Minoan Flying Dolphins in 1999 (although Goutos Lines managed to keep one ship, the MIRINA EXPRESS, on the Lavrion-Kea-Kythnos line). The latter (which became Hellas Flying Dolphins in 2002 and then Hellenic Seaways in 2005) continued to operate a few ships from Rafina over the years in order to compete against Blue Star Ferries, and later new entrants to the market, such as Alpha Ferries (with their 2003-built ship, the AQUA JEWEL), the returning Agoudimos Lines (which bought back the PENELOPE A in 2004), Ventouris Sea Lines (which spent one season on the Rafina-Cyclades service after having bought the ship AGIOS GEORGIOS from Hellas Flying Dolphins in 2004), Sea Jets (established in 2004) and later Fast Ferries (which entered the market in 2007.
During the 2010s, despite suffering from the Greek financial crisis, companies continued to thrive in Rafina thanks to the increase of tourism in Greece and on the Cyclades. Blue Star Ferries ceded the SUPERFERRY II to the newly-established company Golden Star Ferries, which then went on to buy more ships in the late 2010s. The continued success of Fast Ferries saw them operating three ships at the end of the decade. Agoudimos Lines experienced economic troubles, which resulted in them leaving the area in late 2013. Hellenic Seaways continued to deploy some of their high speed craft from Rafina on a seasonal basis, and Sea Jets slowly started to become one of the dominant players in Rafina. This happened thanks to the successful introduction of the SUPER JET on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini line from 2013 to 2015. That service was taken over by the high speed ferry PAROS JET in 2016, and in 2017 the latter operated alongside the company's flagship, the fantastic TERA JET, on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos line, with both services being extremely successful. Combined with a fierce competition against Golden Star Ferries and Fast Ferries which resulted in a price war, passengers were now able to travel with multiple ships from Rafina, and beyond Andros, Tinos and Mykonos. Indeed, they could also head to other known islands like Paros, Naxos, the Lesser Cyclades, Ios and Santorini. Furthermore, in response to the threats of Sea Jets on the Cyclades, Golden Star Ferries also began operations from Rafina to Crete in 2018 and 2019.
As a result of this increasing competition, the port of Rafina has now been considered to be an ideal place for some companies to make profits, and an ideal spot for passengers to choose the ship on which they want to travel. Over the past years, all ships have been leaving the port between 07:05 and 08:05, with many of them racing against each other in other to see which one will first reach the ports of the Cyclades. Some afternoon departures are also very popular, as they suit the freight demand in the area. Therefore, just like it is the case with Piraeus, the daily morning departures in Rafina are a special highlight during the summer, as several ships depart one after the other in order to serve their respective islands.
Now that the historical background of the port of Rafina has been described in depth, I can now talk to you about my visit to the port on 3 August 2019. Indeed, it was the second time in my life that I went to Rafina. The first one was during the previous summer, when I traveled from the port to Ios with the SUPERFERRY of Golden Star Ferries on 14 June 2018. Back then, I also witnessed all of the ships' departures to the Cyclades, and had been impressed by the competition instigated by the various companies. I saw most of them on 3 August 2019 as well, but was very pleased about that as I was able to take pictures of many of them for the second summer in a row. Without further ado, let's have a look at the countless pictures I took that morning, which consisted of eight different ferry departures, as well as one arrival.
Right upon arriving in Rafina with my father just before 07:00, the first ship that we happened to see was the high speed ferry SUPERRUNNER of Golden Star Ferries, which was one of the many ships that were intending to depart the port that morning.
The SUPERRUNNER seen in Rafina before her morning departure.
The port of Rafina seen at dawn, with the port's pier and Evoia (seen in the background) watching the beautiful rising sun.
The SUPERRUNNER seen in Rafina. Built in 1999 in Italy, she first arrived in Greece in 2009, having been bought by Aegean Speed Lines and having been renamed SPEEDRUNNER IV. She spent the next seven years with the company, operating mostly on the Western Cyclades, which is their main area of service. She was also their flagship during that period of time. After the 2016 season, she was sold to Golden Star Ferries, becoming their first-ever high speed craft. She was renamed SUPERRUNNER and began service on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini line in 2017. She also operated on that same line in 2018 and in 2019.
The SUPERRUNNER and the other ferries operating in Rafina seen together at dawn, with all of them waiting for the sun to rise even more in order for them to begin their day.
Another view of the SUPERRUNNER, which was operating for Golden Star Ferries for the third consecutive season.
A very nice picture featuring several billboard signs of companies operating in Rafina. All of them appear to be promoted by the Togias Travel Agency. The post mentions Golden Star Ferries and its two conventional ferries. Right below the latter is a screen which happened to feature the ferry PANORAMA of Panorama Shipping, which is one of the two ferries that operate on the Rafina-Marmari line. Below her, the logos of Blue Star Ferries (which has not been operating from Rafina since 2015) and Fast Ferries (featuring the three ships that the company owned at the time) can be spotted. Further down, one can see a picture of the SUPERFERRY of Golden Star Ferries on the left, and a picture of the TERA JET of Sea Jets. The latter also has a sign on the right side of the poster, which displays the company's logo, colours and slogan, which says 'The World's largest high speed craft fleet' in Greek.
As my father and I began to head towards the Northern pier of the port in order to have a better view of the departing ships, we had to pass by all of them. There I saw the PAROS JET of Sea Jets, which was operating on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos line.
Not far from the PAROS JET was the FAST FERRIES ANDROS of Fast Ferries, which served the traditional Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line.
A view of the FAST FERRIES ANDROS, which has been owned by Fast Ferries since 2015.
Next to the FAST FERRIES ANDROS was the stern of the newest introduction in Rafina at the time, that of the cruiseferry AQUA BLUE of Sea Jets, which operated under the Sea Jets Ferries division.
The Northern pier of the port of Rafina seen at dawn. Just over 13 months after visiting Rafina for the first time, I was now back in the port, and ready to see all the ferries leave the port in order to head towards the Cyclades and the Northeast Aegean Sea.
There, we were also greeted by a seemingly-familiar local resident :) Picture taken by my father.
The ship that happened to be at the corner of the Northern pier was the high speed ferry HELLENIC HIGHSPEED, owned by Hellenic Seaways and chartered by Fast Ferries, She is a sister ship of the SUPERRUNNER, and she also arrived in Greece for the first time in 2009.
The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED seen in Rafina. After having seen and photographed her under the livery of Hellenic Seaways during the summers of 2017 and 2018, it felt strange seeing her operating under Fast Ferries. She was chartered by the latter in order to cover the absence of the EKATERINI P, which was forced to miss the entire 2019 season due to a major engine failure. As a result, the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED replaced her on her usual service, which is spent on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos line. Despite lacking the same vehicle capacity as the EKATERINI P, she had an excellent summer and was praised by passengers for her efficient service. She also helped Fast Ferries in maintaining their positive reputation on the Cyclades, as they managed to quickly find a good alternative to their problem just before the summer season began.
The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED seen alongside the SUPERFERRY of Golden Star Ferries in Rafina.
The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED seen resting in Rafina. Although she was originally bought by Hellenic Seaways in 2009 and was renamed HELLENIC WIND, she did not operate for them until late 2015. Between 2009 and 2015, she would instead spend the summer on charter to Atlântico Line, operating on the Azores Archipelago. She then briefly operated on the Lavrion-Kea-Kythnos-Syros-Tinos-Andros-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Sikinos-Folegandros-Kimolos-Milos-Sifnos-Serifos lifeline on the Cyclades in late 2015, in order to replace her fleetmate, the ARTEMIS, which was undergoing her annual refit at the time. Ahead of the 2016 season, Hellenic Seaways finally decided to include her in their Greek coastal service plans, and converted her in Perama and renamed her HELLENIC HIGHSPEED. She was deployed on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Ios-Santorini line in 2016, with her first summer there being extremely successful. However, after the company sold the HIGHSPEED 6 to the Spanish company Naviera Armas following the 2016 season, she took over the latter's previous service, and she was deployed on the Piraeus-Sifnos-Ios-Santorini line in 2017 and in 2018. In 2019 she left that line in order to operate for Fast Ferries.
The first ship that departed the port of Rafina (at around 07:05) was the THEOLOGOS P of Fast Ferries, which was operating a morning service on the traditional Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line.
The THEOLOGOS P seen leaving Rafina at dawn. Built in 2000 in Japan, she was bought by Fast Ferries in 2006, and, following a conversion in Perama, she began service on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line in 2007, at just 7 years old. She became the first ship of the company to be deployed on the Cyclades (and the first to operate on the Aegean Sea as a whole since 1979), while also being the first one in 28 years to operate on a service other than that of the Igoumenitsa-Corfu line on the Ionian Sea, where her company had started operations back in 1975. Their only previous experience on other lines had been between 1974 and 1979, back when the original THEOLOGOS P was operating on the Oropos-Eretria line on the South Evoian Gulf. Her service was very successful, and it ultimately convinced Fast Ferries to leave the Ionian Sea and focus only on the Cyclades. Since then, they added two other ships in Rafina, the EKATERINI P (which had been owned by them since 1999) in 2012 and the FAST FERRIES ANDROS in 2015.
The THEOLOGOS P seen leaving the port of Rafina in the morning. She usually departs that same port during the afternoon, providing an additional service for passengers and freight operators, although she also makes some trips from Rafina during the morning, as it was the case that day. Since entering service on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line in 2007, she has been praised for her comfortable passenger amenities, her large garage which is essential for freight capacity, and for her efficient itineraries, as she has very rarely had engine troubles.
The THEOLOGOS P seen leaving Rafina in order to head towards Andros, Tinos and Mykonos. She is currently the ferry with the second largest amount of experience on the Rafina-Cyclades service, with the SUPERFERRY II being having been on the line longer than she has. In all of her 13 summers in Greece so far, she has been operating on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line, with the exception of the 2017 season. Indeed, during that year, she added Naxos to her itinerary, and therefore operated on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos line, alongside the EKATERINI P.
The THEOLOGOS P passing by us as she leaves Rafina. She is the third ferry in the history of Fast Ferries to be named THEOLOGOS P. The previous two were landing craft that were deployed on the Igoumenitsa-Corfu line in the 1970s and the 1980s, although the original THEOLOGOS P also had a spell on the Oropos-Eretria line from 1974 to 1979. The second THEOLOGOS P is still in service in Greece, being currently known as the PANAGIA THASSOU of Thassos Ferries since 2005, and is operating on the Kavala-Thassos line.
The beautiful THEOLOGOS P seen leaving Rafina at dawn, in order to head towards her first destination: Andros.
A view of the SUPERFERRY, on which I had traveled on 14 June 2018, from Rafina to Ios (via Andros, Tinos, Mykonos and Paros). By traveling with her, I went to Rafina for the first time in my life. She was also the first ship of Golden Star Ferries on which I have ever traveled, as this was also my first trip on a ship departing from Rafina, and generally on a ship heading to the Cyclades from a mainland port other than Piraeus.
The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED seen right next to the SUPERFERRY. I had also traveled with her, exactly 11 months before my trip with the SUPERFERRY, while I was heading from Ios (the island that I reached with the ship of Golden Star Ferries) to Piraeus (via Sifnos) on 14 July 2017. This was when the ship was spending her first summer on the Piraeus-Sifnos-Ios-Santorini line, under Hellenic Seaways.
A view of the three ships that were seen next to the Northern pier of the port of Rafina: the AQUA BLUE, the SUPERFERRY and the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED. All three of them happened to operate under each of the three main companies serving Rafina during the 2010s, namely Sea Jets, Golden Star Ferries and Fast Ferries, respectively.
The THEOLOGOS P seen heading towards Andros at dawn.
Another view of the AQUA BLUE, the SUPERFERRY and the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED in Rafina.
The SUPERFERRY seen in Rafina. She was built in Japan in 1995, and spent her first 20 years operating as the KOGANE MARU of Sado Kisen on the Naoetsu-Ogi line. She was then sold to Golden Star Ferries in 2015, becoming the second ship in the history of the company. She was converted in Perama, was temporarily renamed GOLDEN FERRY before being renamed SUPERFERRY at the start of her operations. She entered service in 2016, being deployed on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line. In 2017 she was on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos line, while in 2018 she and the SUPERFERRY II were deployed on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Ios-Santorini-Heraklion line, becoming the first ships to connect Rafina with Crete and the Cyclades. In 2019 they were both deployed on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Santorini-Heraklion line.
The second ship to leave the port of Rafina, right after the THEOLOGOS P, was the SUPERRUNNER, which was beginning her usual service on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini line.
The SUPERRUNNER having left Rafina. I also traveled with her, just three days after my trip with the SUPERFERRY, while heading from Ios to Mykonos (via Naxos and Paros) on 17 June 2018. She became the second Golden Star Ferries ship on which I traveled, while also being the third ship of the MDV 1200-class (among the three that operate in Greece as of 2020) on which I had a trip, after having been onboard her sister ships, the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED and her former fleetmate, the SPEEDRUNNER III of Aegean Speed Lines (from Sifnos to Piraeus), during the summer of 2017.
The SUPERRUNNER leaving Rafina in order to head towards Tinos, Mykonos, Paros, Naxos, Ios and Santorini.
The SUPERRUNNER departing Rafina. While it was the first time that I saw most Rafina-based ships during the summer of 2019, I had seen her in Santorini when I had visited the island with my sister on 13-14 July of that same year.
The SUPERRUNNER leaving Rafina in order to head towards her first destination: the port of Tinos.
The SUPERRUNNER seen heading towards Tinos and the other Cyclades islands that are included in her itinerary, which she has been serving successfully since 2017.
The SUPERRUNNER seen departing Rafina. Her acquisition by Golden Star Ferries helped contribute to the company's growth on the Cyclades, and she notably competed very well against the ships of Sea Jets, including during the summer of 2017 which was marked by a fierce price war between the two companies. She has also notably raced against the TERA JET in order to see which ship would first arrive in Tinos, Mykonos, Paros and Naxos, which were the four ports that were served by both ships in 2017 and in 2018. I witnessed one of their races while being in Paros during the summer of 2018. The TERA JET was deployed on the Piraeus-Paros-Ios-Santorini line in 2019, and, as a result, the SUPERRUNNER was mainly competing against the PAROS JET during that summer.
The SUPERRUNNER having left Rafina and now heading at full-speed towards the Cyclades.
Just a few minutes after the SUPERRUNNER had departed, it was now the turn of the PAROS JET to leave Rafina. She was also due to catch-up the SUPERRUNNER as part of their classic races to Tinos, Mykonos, Paros and Naxos.
The PAROS JET seen leaving Rafina. She has been owned by Sea Jets since 2015. Before that, she was known as the CORSICA EXPRESS SECONDA of the French-Italian company Corsica Ferries-Sardinia Ferries, for whom she operated from 1996 (the year during which she was built) to 2015. In her first season under Sea Jets, she operated on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Koufonisi-Amorgos line, while in 2016 she operated on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini line. In 2017 she operated alongside the TERA JET on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos line, leaving Naxos in the morning and departing from Rafina during the afternoon. Both ships' services were extremely successful. In 2018 she was used as the spare ship of the company, and she operated notably on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos line, as well as on other services such as the Volos-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos line on the Sporades or the Piraeus-Chania line, when the incumbent ships in these areas (including ships not owned by Sea Jets) would experience technical problems. In 2019 she returned to the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos line on a permanent basis, cooperating alongside her fleetmate, the NAXOS JET, which was operating on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos line.
The PAROS JET seen leaving Rafina in order to head towards Tinos, Mykonos, Paros and Naxos.
The PAROS JET seen departing the port of Rafina, during her fifth season under Sea Jets.
The PAROS JET seen leaving the port of Rafina, from which she has departed during three different summer seasons (2016, 2017 and 2019), while also occasionally appearing there during her lone season as a spare ship under Sea Jets (2018).
The PAROS JET departing the port of Rafina during the morning.
After witnessing the first three departures from the port of Rafina, we then happened to see an arrival. Indeed, it was that of the EVIA STAR of Geraistos NE, which is one of the two ships that operate on the Rafina-Marmari line.
The PAROS JET having left Rafina during the morning.
The PAROS JET seen leaving Rafina and now sailing at full-speed.
The EVIA STAR is seen approaching the port of Rafina, whereas the PAROS JET is leaving the port.
Another view of the EVIA STAR and of the PAROS JET.
Barely a few seconds after the departure of the PAROS JET, it was now the turn of the FAST FERRIES ANDROS to leave the port of Rafina.
The FAST FERRIES ANDROS seen leaving Rafina. Just like the THEOLOGOS P, she operates on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line under Fast Ferries. She has been operating for them since 2015, after having previously spent 12 years as the EPTANISOS of the now-defunct company Strintzis Ferries on the Ionian Sea.
Built in Japan in 1989, the FAST FERRIES ANDROS first arrived in Greece in 2003, after having been bought by the then-newly-established company Strintzis Ferries, which was an indirect successor of Strintzis Lines. She was renamed EPTANISOS (just like the former ship of Strintzis Lines which had a legendary spell on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Syros line from 1984 to 1992), was converted in Perama, and entered service later that year on the Kyllini-Kefalonia line on the Ionian Sea. She stayed there until 2011, when she switched her itinerary with that of her former fleetmate, the KEFALONIA (owned by Levante Ferries since late 2018), and she was therefore inserted on the Patras-Kefalonia-Ithaca line. She remained there until late 2012, when she was withdrawn from service due to Strintzis Ferries' economic troubles. Despite some comeback attempts, the ship remained laid-up in Drapetsona, Piraeus and then in the Elefsina Bay, until she was sold to Fast Ferries in 2015. She was refitted in order to be ready to operate on the Aegean Sea, was renamed FAST FERRIES ANDROS, and entered service on the Rafina-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos line. After one season there, she was deployed on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line, where she has since been remaining.
The FAST FERRIES ANDROS seen leaving the port of Rafina, in what was her fifth summer under Fast Ferries, and her fourth consecutive season on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line.
The FAST FERRIES ANDROS, the third ship of Fast Ferries to be deployed on the Cyclades, seen leaving the port of Rafina during the morning.
The PAROS JET seen leaving Rafina at full-speed, while the EVIA STAR continues to approach the port.
The PAROS JET being followed by the FAST FERRIES ANDROS, while the EVIA STAR is returning to Rafina from Marmari.
The FAST FERRIES ANDROS having left the port of Rafina.
The PAROS JET, the EVIA STAR and the FAST FERRIES ANDROS are seen sailing right next to the port of Rafina.
The PAROS JET and the FAST FERRIES ANDROS seen leaving Rafina, while the EVIA STAR is about to maneuver in order to dock in the latter port.
The EVIA STAR seen approaching the port of Rafina, after having made the first trip of the day from Marmari. The veteran ferry was spending her nineteenth season in Greece, with all of them having been on the Rafina-Marmari line (although she was on the Rafina-Marmari-Karystos line from 2001 to 2009).
Another view of the FAST FERRIES ANDROS as she is seen leaving Rafina in order to make her first stop in her namesake island.
The FAST FERRIES ANDROS seen leaving Rafina and following the PAROS JET.
The EVIA STAR seen approaching Rafina. Along with the PANORAMA, she serves the Rafina-Marmari line under the Marmari Ferries joint venture.
The EVIA STAR seen shortly before beginning her maneuvering procedure.
The FAST FERRIES ANDROS and the PAROS JET seen sailing on the Cyclades in order to head towards their respective destinations.
The EVIA STAR preparing to undergo her maneuvering procedure. She was built in 1980 in Japan, and initially operated there as a Ro-Ro carrier, as the HAYABUSA No. 3 of the Japanese company Kyoei Unyu. She was sold to Geraistos NE in 2000, and underwent a year-long conversion in Perama, during which she became a passenger ferry. She then entered service on the Rafina-Marmari-Karystos line in 2001. In 2010 she underwent a second conversion in Perama, during which she received sponsons, and returned to service on the Rafina-Marmari line.
Another view of the AQUA BLUE, the SUPERFERRY and the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED, just before their respective morning departures.
One of the two funnels of the EVIA STAR, which features a yellow star in a dark blue background. During the first years of her career in Greece, she had a different livery, with the colours of her funnels being the opposite of what they are today. Indeed, the background was painted in yellow, while the star was painted in blue. This design is very similar to that of Blue Star Ferries, which can be seen on all of the company's ships.
The EVIA STAR preparing to undergo her maneuvering procedure. She is the ship with the second longest amount of experience in Rafina (whereas the THEOLOGOS P is the one with the second largest amount of experience on the Rafina-Cyclades service, on which the EVIA STAR is not deployed), as she has been operating from the port to Evoia since 2001. Only the SUPERFERRY II, which has been operating from Rafina to the Cyclades since 1993, has been there for a longer period of time than her.
The EVIA STAR beginning to undergo her maneuvering procedure in Rafina.
The EVIA STAR is now starting her maneuvering procedure in order to dock in Rafina.
The EVIA STAR maneuvering in Rafina.
In the meantime, the SUPERFERRY was preparing to depart the port in order to follow her competitors and reach the ports of Andros, Tinos, Mykonos, Paros, Santorini and Heraklion.
The SUPERFERRY seen departing the port of Rafina.
The SUPERFERRY now departing the port of Rafina. At the exact same time, the AQUA BLUE also began to leave the port.
The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED seen shortly before her own departure.
The SUPERFERRY seen departing Rafina. During the two seasons during which she and the SUPERFERRY II operated from Rafina to the Cyclades and Heraklion, one ship would depart the Attica port in the morning, while the other one would leave the Cretan port during that same time in order to head towards the opposite direction. By the end of each day, the two ships would arrive at their final respective destinations, and would then make their return trips the following day.
The amazing SUPERFERRY, on which I had the pleasure to make my first trip from Rafina, seen leaving the port in order to head towards the Cyclades and Crete.
In the meantime, I was also able to take pictures of the AQUA BLUE. This happened to be just her second day of service that season, as she was deployed on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Ikaria-Samos line just a day before I took this picture.
The stern of the SUPERFERRY as she is seen leaving the port of Rafina.
The AQUA BLUE seen leaving the port of Rafina in order to head towards the Cyclades and the Northeast Aegean Sea. She became the first ship to connect Rafina with the islands of Ikaria and Samos since her current fleetmate, the SUPER JET, which was deployed on the Rafina-Samos-Ikaria-Patmos-Leipsoi-Leros line during her debut season under Sea Jets in 2004.
The SUPERFERRY and the AQUA BLUE seen leaving Rafina at the same time. As they both headed to Andros, Tinos and Mykonos, they engaged in a fierce race, which lasted until the SUPERFERRY left Mykonos for Paros, while the AQUA BLUE began to head towards Ikaria.
Just a few minutes after the departures of the SUPERFERRY and of the AQUA BLUE, the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED was the last ship among the ones operating on the Rafina-Cyclades service to leave the port that morning.
The SUPERFERRY, full of passengers in the outdoor areas located in her stern, leaving Rafina in order to head towards her first destination: Andros.
The AQUA BLUE having left Rafina as well. Built in Japan exactly 20 years before the SUPERFERRY, she was acquired by ANEK Lines in 1990, and initially entered service in 1991 as the KYDON on the Adriatic Sea, following a year-long conversion in Perama. Four years later, she underwent a second conversion in Perama, during which she was renamed TALOS. In 1999 she was sold to LANE Lines (which was rebranded as LANE Sea Lines in 2006) and was renamed IERAPETRA L. She made her debut on the Aegean Sea, being deployed on the Piraeus-Milos-Santorini-Agios Nikolaos-Siteia-Kasos-Karpathos-Chalki-Rhodes-Castellorizon lifeline. In 2003 she was inserted on the Piraeus-Milos-Santorini-Heraklion-Agios Nikolaos-Siteia-Kasos-Karpathos-Chalki-Rhodes-Castellorizon lifeline, which she continued to serve until 2008. That year, she was also deployed on the Thessaloniki-Kavala-Limnos-Mytilene-Chios-Samos lifeline on the Northeast Aegean Sea. She returned to ANEK Lines in 2009, and continued to serve the Cyclades and the Dodecanese. In 2012 she had a successful spell on Piraeus-Syros-Ikaria-Fournoi-Samos line, but was withdrawn the following year without any given explanation. In 2014 she returned to the Adriatic Sea, being inserted on the Bari-Durrës line. However, after that season ended, she suffered a major fire accident while heading back to Perama for her annual refit. Despite her condition and her old age, she was acquired by Sea Jets in 2016, was repaired and renamed AQUA BLUE, and spent her debut season on the long Thessaloniki-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos-Andros-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos-Santorini-Heraklion lifeline in 2018. After one season there, she was deployed on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Ikaria-Samos line in 2019, being the third ship of Sea Jets to begin operations from Rafina that summer.
The SUPERFERRY and the AQUA BLUE beginning their fierce race right after leaving Rafina.
The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED is also seen departing, as she is ready to begin her daily service on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos line.
The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED seen leaving Rafina. She notably became the first high speed craft to ever operate for Fast Ferries. Her success prompted the company to finally buy a ship of her type for the first time. Indeed, after the 2019 season, the high speed ferry TURGUT ÖZAL of the Turkish company İstanbul Deniz Otobüsleri (also known as İDO) was bought, and is currently being converted in Perama in order to enter service on the Cyclades as the THUNDER.
Another view of the SUPERFERRY and of the AQUA BLUE.
The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED departing at full-speed and seen following the AQUA BLUE (as well as the SUPERFERRY).
The HELLENIC HIGHSPEED having just departed the port of Rafina, during her first and only season under Fast Ferries. She has since returned to Hellenic Seaways, and is currently on the Lavrion-Kea-Kythnos-Syros-Tinos-Andros-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Sikinos-Folegandros-Kimolos-Milos-Sifnos-Serifos lifeline, replacing the ARTEMIS which is currently undergoing her annual refit in Drapetsona.
The SUPERFERRY and the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED seen together, after having departed the port of Rafina.
The SUPERFERRY, the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED and the AQUA BLUE all seen operating on the Cyclades, having left Rafina in order to head towards their respective destinations.
The SUPERFERRY, the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED and the AQUA BLUE having left Rafina in order to serve their respective companies and their passengers in the best way possible.
The SUPERFERRY, the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED and the AQUA BLUE, three very fierce competitors during the 2019 season, having all left Rafina. The SUPERFERRY and the AQUA BLUE are heading towards Andros, while the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED is directly heading to Tinos. The AQUA BLUE is currently operating on the Lavrion-Agios Efstratios-Limnos-Kavala lifeline, having replaced the EXPRESS PEGASUS of Hellenic Seaways which had been operating there since 2015.
In the meantime, while all ships were departing Rafina, the EVIA STAR managed to complete her maneuvering procedure and had docked in the port.
The EVIA STAR having just docked in the port of Rafina.
One last view of the SUPERFERRY, the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED and the AQUA BLUE as they all head from Rafina to their respective destinations.
The EVIA STAR seen resting in the port of Rafina.
Passing by the EVIA STAR, which is unloading passengers and vehicles in Rafina.
After having witnessed all the departures as well as the arrival of the EVIA STAR, my father and I headed back near the parking in order to have a quick breakfast before returning to Athens. I saw another nice poster made by the Mamalis Travel Agency. It features the logos of Fast Ferries (including the names of the company's three conventional ferries), Blue Star Ferries, Hellenic Seaways (which did not operate any ship from Rafina in 2019, but had last deployed the FLYINGCAT 4 on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos-Ios-Folegandros-Sikinos line in 2018), Sea Jets, Golden Star Ferries (featuring the names of the company's two conventional ferries) and Marmari Ferries (featuring the names of the two ships of the joint venture, namely the PANORAMA and the EVIA STAR).
Just a few minutes after my father and I finished our breakfast, we saw the EVIA STAR leaving the port of Rafina in order to make her first trip towards Marmari.
The EVIA STAR seen heading towards from Rafina to Marmari.
This therefore marked the end of our busy morning in the port of Rafina, whereupon we witnessed the departures of some of the main protagonists of the Cyclades and of the Greek coastal service as a whole. It was really a great experience, as it really highlights the intense competition between the companies that operate on the Rafina-Cyclades service, and particularly between Sea Jets, Golden Star Ferries and Fast Ferries. All of them had three ships operating from Rafina (with Golden Star Ferries actually having five), and are more than willing to further strengthen their services across the Cyclades. It will be very interesting to see how this competition will unfold, as Golden Star Ferries has bought three other high speed craft following the successful debut season of the SUPERRUNNER in 2017 (with these being the SUPERSPEED which entered service in 2018, as well as the SUPERCAT and the SUPEREXPRESS which entered service from Piraeus in 2019), Sea Jets wants to add more ships operating from Rafina to the Cyclades, Fast Ferries is preparing to operate the newly-acquired high sped ferry THUNDER, while Blue Star Ferries and Hellenic Seaways are also considering a return to the area. Therefore, the competition from Rafina to the Cyclades will undoubtedly continue to offer some precious moments to passengers and shipping enthusiasts like myself, with many simultaneous departures and fierce races in order to see which ship will fist reach each port. This does not nothing but help improve Greece's tourism, and therefore its overall economy.
Of course, this visit to Rafina will not have been possible without the very touching gesture of my father, who was willing to drive me very early from Athens to Rafina just to see all the ships departing the port at dawn. I am extremely grateful to him for making this great morning happen.
Lastly, Happy Easter to all, as the Greek Orthodox Easter is on 19 April this year!
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