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  • Writer's pictureAlexandros Vrailas

SUPERRUNNER Tribute and Moments of Trip

Trip: 17 June 2018. From Ios to Mykonos, via Naxos and Paros, with the SUPERRUNNER of Golden Star Ferries.

The SUPERRUNNER seen between Paros and Naxos, three days before having my trip with her.

The high speed ferry SUPERRUNNER was built in Italy, being almost completed in 1998 with a view of operating for the British conglomerate Sea Containers, under their Superseacat Italia brandname as the SUPERSEACAT FOUR on the Brindisi-Çeşme line. However, she remained incomplete for the entire year, instead entering service in 1999 on the Finnish Gukf, on the Tallinn-Helsinki line. She was also chartered to the Finnish company Silja Line between 2000 and 2006, operating under the SuperSeaCat brandname, alongside her sister ship, the SUPERSEACAT THREE. She is part of the MDV 1200-class, which corresponds to a class of four high speed craft, three of which went on to spend their careers in Greece (the fourth one is the current ALMUDAINA DOS which operates for the Spanish company Trasmediterránea).

With SuperSeaCat beginning to experience financial difficulties and eventually going out of business, she was sold to the Greek company Aegean Speed Lines in 2008, along with the SUPERSEACAT THREE, and both ships were renamed SPEEDRUNNER IV and SPEEDRUNNER III, respectively. Aegean Speed Lines was a company founded through a collaboration between Sea Containers and the Greek shipowner Leonidas Dimitriadis-Evgenidis, whose family is from Sifnos. The company was founded in 2005, and its first ship was the Incat-built SPEEDRUNNER I (the ex-HOVERSPEED GREAT BRITAIN of Sea Containers), which was deployed on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Folegandros-Paros line. After two successful years, the company acquired another high speed ferry, the larger and faster SPEEDRUNNER II, which had been built in the same shipping yard as the SPEEDRUNNER III and the SPEEDRUNNER IV three years earlier, and which had several similarities with the latter (though she is not entirely part of the MDV 1200-class). The company soon began to expand its services on the Cyclades, serving islands such as Syros, Mykonos, Naxos or Santorini. The SPEEDRUNNER I was sold in 2008 to Panagiotopoulos Shipping, and the company decided to replace her with the incoming SPEEDRUNNER III and SPEEDRUNNER IV for the following summer.

After the completion of the 2008 season on the Baltic Sea, the two newly-acquired high speed craft went to Poland for conversion, arriving in Greece right before the start of the summer of 2009. That year, the SPEEDRUNNER III was deployed on the Piraeus-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos line, while the SPEEDRUNNER IV was deployed on the company's main line, the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos-Folegandros line. She had an instant impact on the line, and quickly won the hearts of the Western Cyclades residents thanks to her speed and her comfortable service. Not only did she become her company's new flagship, but she was also instrumental in her owners receiving the 'Passenger Line of The Year' award in the Lloyd's List Greek Shipping Awards for 2009. She remained deployed on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos-Folegandros line until 2011. She stopped services in Kimolos and Folegandros in 2012, and was the only ship to operate for the company as the Greek economic crisis began to hit Aegean Speed Lines, with the SPEEDRUNNER II and the SPEEDRUNNER III being sent for lay-up in Elefsina Bay. The following year, she herself was laid-up in the same place, with the SPEEDRUNNER III taking her place on the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos line. However, she returned to service in 2014, being deployed on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos line. After a positive season overall, she returned to the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos line in 2015, replacing the SPEEDRUNNER III which was chartered to the Moroccan company Navline. In 2016 she extended her service to Kimolos, Folegandros and Sikinos, thus serving the Piraeus-Serifos-Sifnos-Milos-Kimolos-Folegandros-Sikinos line.

However, the 2016 season unexpectedly marked her final one under Aegean Speed Lines, as she was sold to the Andros-based company Golden Star Ferries in November 2016. This company has been one of Greece's most promising coastal service companies, as it has experienced an impressive growth over the past years. It was founded in 2010 by the brothers Georgios and Dimitris Stefanou, shipowners originally from Andros and who had experience in shipping through the freight company Bright Navigation. Golden Star Ferries had its first breakthrough in the Greek coastal service by acquiring the legendary SUPERFERRY II of Blue Star Ferries in order to extend her career on her highly-acclaimed operations along the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line. She was delivered in 2011 and resumed her service on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos line. As her service continued to be extremely successful despite strong competition, the company decided to expand its fleet, acquiring the Japanese ferry KOGANE MARU of Sado Kisen in 2015, which entered service on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line in 2016 as the SUPERFERRY. Following the latter's success, but also due to the rise of competition on the lines linking Rafina with the Cyclades (notably that of Sea Jets, which is a company that is also specialised in the operations of high speed craft), Golden Star Ferries sought to further improve their services by bringing a high speed ferry to Rafina, hence buying the SPEEDRUNNER IV. The latter was renamed SUPERRUNNER, and, following a refit in Salamina, she began operations on the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini line in 2017, where she also operated in 2018. Her successful introduction in 2017 was the main factor behind Golden Star Ferries winning the 'Passenger Line of The Year' award award in the Lloyd's List Greek Shipping Awards for 2017. Therefore, during both of her first seasons under Aegean Speed Lines and Golden Star Ferries, she helped both companies win this prestigious award for the first time in their respective histories.

So this is a summary of a long but quite successful career spent by this unique high speed craft. Whether she has operated as the SPEEDRUNNER IV or as the SUPERRUNNER, her service on the Cyclades has been praised by many. She has constantly provided reliable service, has rarely suffered engine failures and has usually avoided delays when calling in all the various Cyclades ports that she has served. Currently, as the SUPERRUNNER, she is the main weapon used by Golden Star Ferries to compete against Sea Jets, and notably against their flagship, the TERA JET. The two high speed craft have often had live confrontations regarding which of them will arrive in a Cyclades port first, and have hence been said to form one the biggest Greek coastal service rivalries in recent years.

But now I think the time is right for me to talk about my trip with the Golden Star Ferries ship. Indeed, three days prior to it, I went to Ios by traveling from Rafina with the SUPERFERRY in order to go and spend a week on the Cyclades with university friends. We were supposed to spend three days in Ios followed by three more in the popular island of Mykonos. As we were due to leave Ios in the afternoon, the most convenient way to go from the latter to Mykonos was through the itinerary of the SUPERRUNNER, which was arriving from Santorini and was heading back towards Rafina. I was therefore able to carry out a portion of her entire trip, by heading from Ios to Mykonos while also stopping by the islands of Naxos and Paros. This was my second trip with a Golden Star Ferries ship (the first one having been three days earlier with her fleetmate, the SUPERFERRY), my first-ever trip with a high speed craft owned by Golden Star Ferries, my first-ever inter-Cyclades trip (as all previous trips that I did on the Cyclades linked one of the islands with a port in Attica, namely Piraeus and Rafina) with a high speed craft (I had done one with the BLUE STAR PATMOS of Blue Star Ferries from Santorini to Ios on 10 July 2017), and my second trip for the 2018 summer season. Moreover, an important fact about this trip was that it meant that I now had traveled with all three sister ships of the MDV 1200-class operating in Greece, as I had previously traveled with the SPEEDRUNNER III on 29 July 2017 from Sifnos to Piraeus, while having also done a trip with the SUPERRUNNER's other sister ship, the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED of Hellenic Seaways, on 14 July 2017, from Ios to Piraeus. This is therefore the first time I have ever traveled with all available ships from a class operating in Greek waters. I now only need to travel with the ALMUDAINA DOS in Spain in order to ensure that I have traveled with all MDV 1200-class ferries, though this case seems to be a long shot for now.

As we prepared to depart the port of Ios, we stayed at the port's waiting area while the SUPERRUNNER was arriving from Santorini.

The SUPERRUNNER having arrived in Ios and now preparing to maneuver in the port.

The SUPERRUNNER preparing to maneuver in Ios. Note the 'High Speed' label on her hull, which is used by all the high speed craft that Golden Star Ferries has gone on to buy following the success experienced by the SUPERRUNNER.

The SUPERRUNNER maneuvering in Ios.

As the ship docked, we were able to board. I had a quick look at the ship's garage, which is spread through two decks. It features passenger luggage storage at the entrance, which is organised based on the islands in which they disembark.

Before having the chance to look at the Ios port from the ship, I quickly had a look around the ship's indoor areas. Structure-wise, it looked exactly like the indoor areas of the SPEEDRUNNER III and of the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED. One notable feature however was this poster which was found hanging in the wall next to the reception. It shows the company's two conventional ferries (and first two ships in its history), the SUPERFERRY II (on top) and the SUPERFERRY (at the bottom), as well as the company's logo and website.

The back section of the Economy Class area, featuring lounges next to the stern as well as orange chairs featuring the logo of Golden Star Ferries and tables separating them.

More forward were aircraft-style seats, the central seats being light green while the ones next to the windows being orange. All of them feature the logo of Golden Star Ferries. The ceiling had several TV screens, which at the time of my trip were showing the matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup held in Russia.

Even more forward, one can see more aircraft-style seats, this time coloured in grey and in red.

The forward section of the Economy Class area. The walls were decorated with sea navigation maps depicting the Cyclades. Behind the grey chairs, the wall features a sailing ship in a black and white font.

The ship's bar next to the stern section of the Economy Class. Known as the Kaldera Bar and operated by Golden Cafe, it sells several snacks, cakes, pastries, coffee and soft drinks.

The outdoor area of the SUPERRUNNER, as seen from outside the Economy Class lounge area. The stern features the ship's helicopter landing area, which is surrounded by blue benches facing towards the sea. And it of course features the Greek flag, which went on to spend its tenth summer onboard the ship during the 2018 season.

Unfortunately, as it was the case with the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED, I was forced by the crew to stay inside for the duration of each crossing, for 'safety reasons'. Strangely, the crew of the SPEEDRUNNER III allows passengers to remain outside for the duration of the ship's trips, despite the Western Cyclades being more windy than the Central Cyclades. Anyways, these are the rules and they need to be respected. I still had the chance to go outside whenever the ship would approach a port and stay in the latter before her next departure. Here, this picture shows the port side alley next to the ship's First Class (similar to the one found on the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED) leading towards the ship's bridge. It also features several life-rafts.

As the ship began to leave the port of Ios, I could spot the famous white Church of Agia Eirini, which is among the most famous churches of the island and of the Cyclades as a whole.

We left Ios at 15:35, as planned, and began to head towards our first stop while setting course for Mykonos: Naxos.

In less than 50 minutes, we had already began to approach the port of Naxos. There, I saw the oil products tanker EKO 2 of Greek company EKO, which operates all around the Aegean Sea.

At approximately 16:30, we reached the port of Naxos, passing by its entrance pier.

Inside the port of Naxos, one can spot several small boats, either those owned by Naxos residents or the ones serving passengers, as it is the case with this orange-hulled ship. It is the KYRIARCHOS of Naxos-based Kerras Cruises, which operates trips from Naxos to other Cyclades Islands. She is the oldest out of the four ships owned by the company, and operates on the Naxos-Irakleia-Schoinousa-Koufonisi line.

The small but beautiful port of Naxos, seen as the SUPERRUNNER undergoes her maneuvering procedure.

A nice sailing ship seen in the port of Naxos.

A very famous landmark of Naxos: the remains of what was the Temple of Apollon during the Ancient Greece era. Only the entrance of the Temple remains standing, and is known in Greek as the 'Portara' (the 'Big Gate' in English).

Not far from the KYRIARCHOS was one of her fleetmates, the newly-built KYRIARCHOS IV. Built in 2017 as the fourth ship of Kerras Cruises, she is the company's flagship and operates on the Naxos-Irakleia-Schoinousa-Koufonisi line. She also occasionally stops in the Agia Anna beach, which is perhaps the most famous one in Naxos.

After only ten minutes, the SUPERRUNNER left the port of Naxos. Note the container seen right in front of the pier, which carries a livery of Blue Star Ferries. The latter is, as you now know, the former company operating the SUPERFERRY II, which was Golden Star Ferries' first acquisition back in 2010.

Leaving the 'Portara'. I would find myself visiting Naxos with my family a month and nine days after my trip with the SUPERRUNNER.

While the SUPERRUNNER was leaving Naxos, I had the chance to spot another high speed craft before being told to return inside the ship. But I could not miss the opportunity of seeing one the best high speed craft in the history of the Greek coastal service. Indeed, this ship was none other than the highly-acclaimed HIGHSPEED 4 of Hellenic Seaways, which was heading towards the same port from which we had just left.

Built in 2000, the HIGHSPEED 4 has spent her entire career with Hellenic Seaways (though they were known as Minoan Flying Dolphins from 1999 to 2002 and as Hellas Flying Dolphins from 2002 to 2005), and is now the only 'Highspeed' ship remaining with them (alongside the HELLENIC HIGHSPEED), as the ex-HIGHSPEED 7 had been sold seven days before my trip to Minoan Lines, being renamed SANTORINI PALACE.

The HIGHSPEED 4 operated on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Koufonisi-Amorgos line for the third straight summer and fourth overall, having also served the line in 2014. In 2015, she was on the Heraklion-Santorini-Ios-Paros-Mykonos line in order to replace her then-fleetmate, the HIGHSPEED 5 (which then became the HIGHSPEED 7), which was forced to miss the 2015 season due to a severe fire she suffered while undergoing a minor conversion in Keratsini.

The speedy HIGHSPEED 4 heading to Naxos, having arrived from Koufonisi.

The HIGHSPEED 4 heading towards Naxos.

The HIGHSPEED 4 on her way to Naxos.

Another view of the HIGHSPEED 4 as she heads towards Naxos.

In less than 40 minutes, at around 17:20, we had already reached our next stop: the port of Paros, known as Paroikia.

While maneuvering in Paros, I spotted another Hellenic Seaways ship: the great NISSOS CHIOS.

I was really excited to see the NISSOS CHIOS, as I finally had the opportunity to take pictures of her. Built in Greece in 2007 for Hellenic Seaways, she unfortunately, from a Greek shipping enthusiast's point of view, spent the summers of 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 in Spain, while being chartered to Baleària. Fortunately she returned to Greece after a successful spell there. I therefore got the chance to see her with my own eyes for the first time since 2010, as I remember seeing her in Piraeus during that year.

Though the NISSOS CHIOS was on the Piraeus-Chios-Mytilene line from 2007 to 2014 (while also including some Cyclades islands in certain summers), her return to Greece saw her go through another path. Initially deployed on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Ios-Santorini line for Hellenic Seaways, the plans changed when the latter was taken over by Attica Group. She thus abandoned that line (despite being extremely successful, even though the summer season had not even started) and was deployed on the Dodecanese lifeline instead of the BLUE STAR PAROS of Blue Star Ferries which was sent to the Piraeus-Syros-Tinos-Mykonos-Ikaria-Fournoi-Samos line. She was deployed on the Piraeus-Paros-Naxos-Ikaria-Fournoi-Astypalaia-Patmos-Leipsoi-Leros-Kalymnos-Kos-Nisyros-Tilos-Symi-Rhodes-Karpathos-Castellorizon line, hence also serving some Cyclades and Northeast Aegean Sea islands. Every Saturday, however, she would operate on her well-known line, the Piraeus-Chios-Mytilene line, in order to provide additional service there alongside her fleetmates.

The NISSOS CHIOS seen leaving Paros in order to head towards Naxos.

A windmill found in the middle of the Paroikia village, right next to the port.

Another ship seen in Paros was the oil products tanker CHRISANTHI of Argo. She also operates all around the Aegean Sea, and also features a garage like ferries do, although she is not a passenger ship.

As the NISSOS CHIOS was leaving Paros, the HIGHSPEED 4 was arriving from Naxos. At around 17:35, the SUPERRUNNER began to depart Paros, an island which I would also go on to visit later during the summer with my family.

Two of Hellenic Seaways' best ships, the NISSOS CHIOS and the HIGHSPEED 4, seen together outside of Paros.

The impressive HIGHSPEED 4 heads towards the port of Paros, while the great NISSOS CHIOS heads towards Naxos as part of her long itinerary which ends in Castellorizon.

The HIGHSPEED 4 approaching the port of Paros, which she has served almost every summer she has been operating since 2000.

The HIGHSPEED 4, an icon of Paros, heading towards the island's port.

The catamaran HIGHSPEED 4 seen heading towards Paros.

Another view of the HIGHSPEED 4.

The HIGHSPEED 4 in Paros. She is the only 'Highspeed' of her company to have carried all the different liveries of Minoan Flying Dolphins, Hellas Flying Dolphins and Hellenic Seaways over time. She was notably sponsored by telephone services company Vodafone from 2003 to 2013 (as were all of the catamarans owned by Hellenic Seaways), and by rival operator Cosmote (based in Greece) since 2013. Her current livery has been painted on her hull since 2016, when Cosmote changed its logo and brand colours, Previously, the ship had a light green hull only, before transitioning to a livery featuring white, and different shades of green and blue.

The funnel of the HIGHSPEED 4, featuring the famous three dolphins, which make up the logo of Hellenic Seaways.

After only 55 minutes, the SUPERRUNNER arrived in Mykonos, which was my final destination. She quickly maneuvered in the new port of the island, which is only served by ferries and by some cruise ships. Here she is after having disembarked her.

Another view of the SUPERRUNNER in Mykonos, after having completed her trip with her. She then headed towards Tinos and her final destination for the day, the port of Rafina.

And this therefore marks the end of my trip with the impressive SUPERRUNNER, which made the trip look like a taxi drive. It was unfortunate that I could not spend more time in her exterior areas, but I still had an enjoyable experience inside her nice and comfortable indoor areas. She is a great ship which has been an extremely valuable asset for Golden Star Ferries in their fight against competitors, especially Sea Jets. The good news is that her company will enhance their presence on the Cyclades by adding three more high speed craft: the already-bought passenger-only ships SUPERSPEED and SUPERCAT, as well as a new ferry: the EXPRESS. The latter is mostly known for her spell with P&O Ferries on the Troon-Cairnryan-Larne line (a connection of Scotland with Northern Ireland), and is due to operate in Rafina as the GOLDEN EXPRESS in 2019, while being owned by Golden Star Ferries and fellow company Fast Ferries simultaneously. This expansion, combined with the very successful service that the SUPERRUNNER has already been providing, can only define an optimistic future for her company.

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