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  • Writer's pictureAlexandros Vrailas

SEBECO II Tribute and Moments of Trip

Trip: 27 July 2019. From Piraeus to Agistri, via Aegina, with the SEBECO II of Alko Ferries.

The small high speed boat SEBECO II was built in Greece in 2019. She was delivered to newly-established company Alko Ferries. This company sought to provide additional service on the Saronic Gulf with a ship whose speed would be between that of conventional ferries and that of hydrofoils. She was therefore deployed on the Saronic Gulf, operating on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri line. She had a very good first year despite entering service just before the start of the high season and the intense competition that she faced in the area. She is the second ship to be named after the xebec, which was the name given to small fast ships operating on the Mediterranean Sea from the 16th century to the 19th century. The first ship, named SEBECO, was built in 2018 in the same shipyard as the SEBECO II, but was ordered by ANES Ferries, and operates on the Dodecanese, on the Rhodes-Symi line.

The introduction of the SEBECO II on the Saronic Gulf, and particularly in Aegina (one of the two islands where I go to every summer) was an unexpected but pleasant surprise, as I was pleased to see the return of small passenger boats operating on the Saronic Gulf, besides those serving Salamina. Impressed by her overall aesthetic appearance and her speed, I decided that it was a good opportunity for me to have a trip onboard her for the first time. I had planned to spend a few hours in the island of Agistri, which is located right next to Aegina. This was done just in order for me to have a quick look at it (one can easily have a walk around the entire island) and to photograph the ships that serve it. It ended-up being my first time going there since 2008. And for that reason, I chose to go there with the SEBECO II. It was my first-ever trip from Piraeus to Agistri (as the only two times that I had visited the island, in 2007 and 2008 respectively, had been with a motor boat from Aegina), my first-ever trip to Agistri with a ship of the Greek coastal service, and my first-ever trip with a ship operating on the Saronic Gulf during her first-ever year of operations.

I arrived in Piraeus very early in the morning in order to witness the numerous departures of ships heading to the Cyclades, the Northeast Aegean Sea and the Saronic Gulf, as they all left one after the other between 06:45 and 08:00. After that unique moment, I headed towards the E8 gate in order to embark onboard the SEBECO II, which was due to depart at 08:35 for Aegina and Agistri.

The SEBECO II docked in Piraeus, shortly before her morning departure. Her itinerary, specifically the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri line, was mentioned in Greek over the windows of her lower deck.

A view of the newly-built SEBECO II prior to her departure, during the first summer of her career.

Next to the ship, I spotted another ship which was operating for the first time, although in her case it was her first summer after several years of inactivity. Indeed, this ship was the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN VENUS I of Aegean Flying Dolphins. After having been laid-up since 2011 (except for two trips that she made in 2016 on the Saronic Gulf) due to the mandatory age limit imposed on hydrofoils once they would complete 30 years of service, she was reactivated in 2019 in order to serve the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri-Methana-Poros line, as the age limit was removed in 2015.

Behind the hydrofoil, I spotted the high speed catamaran FLYINGCAT 4 of Hellenic Seaways, in what was her first-ever season on the Saronic Gulf as well. Built in 1999, she had previously spent the largest part of her career on the Cyclades, while also serving the Sporades from 2001 to 2003 and from 2016 to 2017.

The FLYING DOLPHIN VENUS I seen docking in Piraeus, during her first full season since 2011. She became the only Kometa-class hydrofoil to deployed on the Saronic Gulf.

The FLYINGCAT 4 is seen leaving the port of Piraeus. By being deployed on the Saronic Gulf, she thus ensured that all six catamarans that operate or that have operated under the 'Flyingcat' brand have been inserted on the Saronic Gulf at some point during their careers. Just like her current and former fleetmates, she was deployed on the Piraeus-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line.

The FLYINGCAT 4 seen leaving Piraeus. The previous summer, back in 2018, saw her operating on the Cyclades, on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos-Ios-Sikinos-Folegandros line. She then moved to the Saronic Gulf in 2019.

The FLYING DOLPHIN VENUS I having docked in Aegina. Built in 1981, she has spent her entire career in Greece, operating initially on the Sporades as the FLYING DOLPHIN XIV for Ceres Flying Dolphins (1981-1999) and Minoan Flying Dolphins/Hellas Flying Dolphins (1999-2005), then on the Corfu-Paxoi line as the PAXOS FLYING DOLPHIN for Paxos Flying Dolphins (2005-2008) before she she was sold to Aegean Flying Dolphins in 2008. She spent her first two summers on the Samos-Patmos-Leipsoi-Leros-Kalymnos-Kos line on the Dodecanese, and was then deployed in 2010 and in 2011 on the Saronic Gulf, on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri line, before her first retirement after she had completed 30 years of service.

While the SEBECO II was departing Piraeus, one could see a former fleetmate of the FLYING DOLPHIN VENUS I when the latter operated for Ceres Flying Dolphins and then for Minoan Flying Dolphins/Hellas Flying Dolphins. It was the hydrofoil FLYING DOLPHIN XXIX of Hellenic Seaways, which also operates on the Saronic Gulf.

Next to the departing SEBECO II was a Saronic Gulf veteran. Indeed, it was the small passenger boat AGIA MARINA AEGINIS, which was spending her first season under ANES Ferries.

The AGIA MARINA AEGINIS seen docked in Piraeus. Built in 2000 as the ALEXANDROS, she operated for Alexandros Shipping on the Ionian Sea on the Zakynthos-Kefalonia-Ithaca-Lefkada line (2000-2006) and on the Ierapetra-Chryssi line in Crete (2007) before first arriving on the Saronic Gulf in 2008. She was deployed on the Piraeus-Northern Aegina line (serving the ports of Souvala and Agia Marina), and has since remained there. She was sold to my WAYS in 2015 and operated for one season under the latter before being bought by Evoïkos Lines in 2016, whereupon she was renamed AGIA MARINA AEGINIS. After three seasons with that company, she was acquired by ANES Ferries, which has been a company operating on the Saronic Gulf since 2007.

The AGIA MARINA AEGINIS seen during her first summer under ANES Ferries. It was also her first summer on a new service introduced by the company. Indeed, she was operating on the Piraeus-Northern Aegina-Hydra line, marking the first direct coastal service connection of Aegina with Hydra since 2007.

Next to the AGIA MARINA AEGINIS was her former Evoïkos Lines fleetmate: the landing craft MENEKRATIS of Kerkyra Lines which was under charter to Saronic Ferries (formerly known as the OSIOS DAVID). This ship was also deployed on the Piraeus-Northern Aegina line (serving the port of Souvala), marking her first summer there since 2016 (her last summer under Evoïkos Lines before being sold to her current owners in 2017).

The bow of the AGIA MARINA AEGINIS in Piraeus. She had a very good first summer under ANES Ferries, and she also worked well in Hydra. It was not her first time operating beyond Northern Aegina, as she had also served the Piraeus-Northern Aegina-Agistri line during the 2010 season. However, this service was discontinued from the 2011 season onwards.

The stern of the MENEKRATIS as she is seen resting in Piraeus. She was known as the OSIOS DAVID while being owned by Evoïkos Lines from 2000 to 2017. She spent the first years of her career on the North Evoian Gulf, on the Glyfa-Agiokampos line (2000-2005), on the Arkitsa-Aidipsos line (2006-2013 and in 2015) and on the Agios Konstantinos-Agios Georgios Lichados line (2014) before operating on the Piraeus-Northern Aegina line in 2016. The following year she was sold to Kerkyra Lines, was renamed MENEKRATIS and was deployed on the Igoumenitsa-Corfu line (serving the port of Lefkimmi). She was chartered in 2019 to the Saronic Ferries joint venture as the latter had promised to bring a ferry to Souvala during the summer. They decided to bring the MENEKRATIS due to her past experience on the line back in 2016.

Next to her was a larger ferry: the POSIDON HELLAS of 2way Ferries, which was resting in Piraeus.

The POSIDON HELLAS was seen docking alongside her 2way Ferries fleetmate, the APOLLON HELLAS. Both ships have been experienced ferries on the Saronic Gulf.

The AGIA MARINA AEGINIS seen docked in Piraeus, during her first summer under her current owners.

While we began to depart the port of Piraeus, I saw the cruiseferry KNOSSOS PALACE of Minoan Lines, whose arrival maneuvering procedure I had seen just a few hours earlier. Built in 2000, she has spent her entire career on the Piraeus-Heraklion line. Since 2018, she has also been operating on the Piraeus-Milos-Heraklion line.

Behind her was one of her competitors, the ferry KRITI II of ANEK Lines. Built in 1979, she also operates on the Piraeus-Heraklion line, under the ANEK-Attica Group joint venture.

I then saw the fleetmate of the KRITI II, the gigantic EL. VENIZELOS. She also operates for the ANEK-Attica Group joint venture, serving the Piraeus-Chania line, where she has been since 2017. She had also served the line in 2012, and under multiple occasions from 1993 to 2004 and from 2008 to 2011, when her fleetmates operating there at the time would undergo their annual refits.

The KRITI II and the EL. VENIZELOS seen together in Piraeus. Since 2017, they have been the two ANEK Lines ships that directly connect Piraeus with Crete.

At the E11 gate, I spotted the FLYINGCAT 3 of Hellenic Seaways, which has been operating on the Saronic Gulf since 2016. Just like the FLYINGCAT 4, she operates on the Piraeus-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line. She had also operated on the Saronic Gulf in 2015, performing additional trips on the Piraeus-Hydra-Spetses line while also serving her main itinerary that season, the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Koufonisi line.

The KRITI II and the EL. VENIZELOS both docked in Piraeus.

The next ship that I got to see was the BLUE STAR PAROS of Blue Star Ferries, which has been operating on the Piraeus-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos-Ikaria-Fournoi-Samos line since 2018. I had not spotted that ship during my early morning stay in Piraeus, so I presume that she had arrived in the port while I was heading towards the docking spot of the SEBECO II.

Passing by the KNOSSOS PALACE in Piraeus. It was her first season operating under the new exhaust gas cleaning system that she acquired during a small conversion in Malta in early 2019. She received scrubbers and an upgraded funnel which make her more environmentally-friendly as she consumes less sulphur oil.

While looking further towards the South, I saw that another ship of Blue star Ferries had arrived in Piraeus while I was embarking onboard the SEBECO II. It was the Ro-Pax BLUE STAR 1, which operates on the Piraeus-Syros-Mykonos-Amorgos-Santorini-Samos-Patmos-Leros-Kalymnos-Kos-Symi-Rhodes line.

I also passed by the cruiseferry NISSOS SAMOS of Hellenic Seaways, which had also arrived in Piraeus during the early morning. Owned by her current company since late 2015, she was spending her second season in a row on the Piraeus-Psara-Oinousses-Chios-Mytilene line.

The next ship that I got to see was another cruiseferry. Indeed, it was the MYKONOS PALACE of Minoan Lines, whose arrival I had witnessed just an hour before beginning my trip with the SEBECO II. It was her second season back with Minoan Lines (she was on charter to Italian company Tirrenia Di Navigazione from 2012 to early 2018), and her second consecutive summer on the Piraeus-Chania line.

The impressive MYKONOS PALACE seen resting in Piraeus. Built in 2002 as the last of the four sister ships ordered in Italy by her company between 2000 and 2002, she first operated for Minoan Lines as the EUROPA PALACE on the Adriatic Sea. She first served the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Ancona line (2002-2010) and then the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Venice line (2010-2011) before being chartered alongside her sister ship, the OLYMPIA PALACE (now the CRUISE BONARIA of Italian company Grimaldi Lines) to Tirrenia Di Navigazione in 2012. She returned to Minoan Lines in 2018, was renamed MYKONOS PALACE, and was deployed on the Piraeus-Chania line. She was also the first ship in the history of the Greek coastal service to acquire scrubbers, after she underwent a small conversion after the 2018 season ended.

The BLUE STAR 1 seen in Piraeus. Built in 2000, she is the flagship of her company. It was her second consecutive summer operating on her current service, as she began to share duties there with her sister ship and fleetmate, the BLUE STAR 2. Before that, she was on the Northeast Aegean Sea from 2015 to early 2018.

The BLUE STAR 1 seen docked alongside the veteran ferry AQUA BLUE of Sea Jets (operating under the Sea Jets Ferries division), which was undergoing her final preparation stages before she began to operate for the second summer in a row under her current owners.

The MYKONOS PALACE seen docked in Piraeus, after having arrived from Chania earlier in the morning.

The BLUE STAR 1 docked in Piraeus and about to receive bunkers.

The AQUA BLUE seen in Piraeus. She operated on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Ikaria-Samos line in 2019. In her first season under Sea Jets Ferries, she operated on the Thessaloniki-Skiathos-Skopelos-Alonissos-Andros-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos-Santorini-Heraklion line.

After having exited the port of Piraeus, the SEBECO II began to sail under full-speed towards Aegina. At some point, we crossed the ferry PHIVOS of Nova Ferries, which serves the Saronic Gulf as well.

The great PHIVOS seen heading from Aegina to Piraeus. She has been on the Saronic Gulf with Nova Ferries since 2005. Since 2014 she has been on the Piraeus-Aegina-Methana-Poros line, when her company joined the Saronic Ferries joint venture (which also includes 2way Ferries and used to include Hellenic Seaways).

Crossing the PHIVOS on the Saronic Gulf heading from Aegina to Piraeus, during her fifteenth season in Greece under Nova Ferries.

A few minutes later, we began to pass by another conventional ferry operating on the Saronic Gulf, namely the AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS of ANES Ferries. She has been operating on the Piraeus-Aegina line since 2001, and has been sailing for her current owners since 2007.

The AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS seen heading from Piraeus to Aegina, during her nineteenth season on the Saronic Gulf. Her company, ANES Ferries, owns the original SEBECO, which was built in 2018 and was deployed on the Rhodes-Symi line on the Dodecanese.

Passing by the AGIOS NEKTARIOS AEGINAS as she heads from Piraeus to Aegina via the Saronic Gulf.

While the SEBECO II is faster than the conventional ferries operating on the Saronic Gulf, she is slower than the hydrofoils. This was confirmed when the FLYING DOLPHIN XXIX passed by us as she also headed from Piraeus to Aegina.

The FLYING DOLPHIN XXIX seen heading at full-speed towards Aegina. She has been operating on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri-Poros-Hydra-Ermioni-Spetses-Porto Cheli line ever since she began service in 1993. She is currently the youngest hydrofoil in the Greek coastal service.

I then saw the double-ended ferry ACHAEOS of 2way Ferries heading from Aegina to Piraeus. Just like the SEBECO II, she operates on the Piraeus-Aegina-Agistri line, having been in this service since 2014.

As the SEBECO II began to approach Aegina, I saw the FLYING DOLPHIN XXIX departing the port, after she had already docked and unloaded several passengers.

After 50 minutes, the SEBECO II was now preparing to dock in Aegina. She did this at around 09:25.

The FLYING DOLPHIN XXIX seen having departed Aegina.

The FLYING DOLPHIN XXIX seen leaving Aegina. She first operated for Ceres Flying Dolphins (1993-1999) before being acquired by Minoan Flying Dolphins. The latter then became Hellas Flying Dolphins in 2002, before being rebranded as Hellenic Seaways in 2005.

The FLYING DOLPHIN XXIX ready to leave Aegina.

The FLYING DOLPHIN XXIX having departed Aegina and now heading towards Agistri.

While the SEBECO II was docking in Aegina, I saw the small local passenger boat AGISTRI EXPRESS I of Agistriotiki NE, which has been operating on the Aegina-Agistri line since 2000 (19 years before the SEBECO II was built).

The AGISTRI EXPRESS I seen resting in Aegina, before her next departure for Agistri.

As several passengers left Aegina, I thought that it was a good opportunity for me to take pictures of both the indoor and the outdoor areas of the ship.

This is the lower deck sun deck, located right next to the stern and to the embarkation spot. It features a few chairs that look like aircraft-style seats, and an area for passengers to store their luggage and even their bicycles.

The ship's sole passenger indoor area, located on the lower deck. It features a modern room with several grey aircraft-style seats aligned in rows.

The front section of the indoor area, featuring even more grey aircraft-style seats.

The ship also features a tiny bar at the front section of the deck. It sells a few beers, soft drinks, juices, coffee and snacks.

A view of the upper deck, which primarily has the ship's bridge and an outdoor area forming the sun deck. It also features seats similar to the ones found in the outdoor section in the lower deck.

The ship's starboard side alley leading from the sun deck in the upper deck to the ship's bridge.

The ship's front section alley, located right in front of the bridge. One can have a full view of the bow. The SEBECO II docked in the exact same place where hydrofoils moor in Aegina.

At around 09:40, the SEBECO II left Aegina for the last destination of the trip, which was Agistri. After just 15 minutes, we had already arrived, and the ship began to unload all passengers and load new ones in order to make her return trip from Agistri to Piraeus via Aegina.

The SEBECO II having just arrived in Agistri.

The SEBECO II docked in Agistri and loading new passengers.

One last view of the friendly SEBECO II prior to her departure from Agistri.

This therefore marks the end of my trip with the SEBECO II. I had now made it to Agistri for the first time since 2008. I stayed there for a few hours before heading back to Piraeus with the POSIDON HELLAS. It was a very fast trip onboard a very nice ship which had not even completed a month of service by the time I traveled with her. She has enough space to fit enough passengers and is a good alternative to the conventional ferries and to the faster hydrofoils. While she had a good first summer on the Saronic Gulf, her owners are reportedly looking to deploy her somewhere on the Dodecanese in 2020. Whether this happens or not will not really matter, as she is a brand-new passenger boat that can cover any short-distance trip in a very efficient manner.

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