Friday, October 15th, 2021
Last week we did a bit of a special feature recapping how the summer looked like for the principal Greek ferry companies, let's keep on singing this tune and have a look at the ferries which stood out amongst the Greek fleet. I feel the need to clarify that my comments in both features represent what those ferries/companies did during the last few months of the high season, not their historical presence over the years, which is a completely different story.
This one is on top of my list for the mere fact that this came as a result of its absence. She wins therefore the title of the most missed ferry of the season. Joking aside I believe she's a great fit to her service and she was bound to have a great season. She is well maintained for her age, however human error set in motion a very different sequence of events which we have mentioned in length here. She's back in action now and hopefully she'll be running trouble-free.
She's earning a lifetime achievement award. Retired from the Rafina - Andros - Tinos - Mykonos route after 28 years of stellar service and good money in the pockets of her three different owners during this time span. You'll be hard-pressed to find someone who's not fond of this ship, a credit to Strintzis Lines who refitted her initially and to those who owned her with great care and respect. Now everyone is in the hope she'll be the recipient of the same TLC from Seajets and that she'll be around for a few years more.
I believe she's the most improved performer of the season. For the better part of 20 years there have been several attempts to penetrate the Piraeus - Chania market, the stronghold of ANEK Lines, all efforts met a bitter end. Perseverance, creativity and deep pockets pay off though and from the 25-odd lorries of last year the Kydon Palace now is the de facto leader of the pack in this route.
The Piraeus - Chania route though is not only about impressive cruise ferries, it's about overaged ro-ros as well. More than a year ago, when the 41-year old Iosif K entered service twice a week in the Chania route(and once a week in the Mykonos - Kos - Rhodes route), nobody would have thought that a year later she'd still be operating trouble-free and with absolutely great loading factors for her owners. After having spent many years in the hands of not exactly first class owners and knowing the state she was in when she arrived, this turnaround earns her the comeback of the year award.
The Superferry II of the Ionian Sea, 26 years of consecutive service in the Ionian Sea. Fast(when her owners decide to rev her up), reliable, beloved in that part of Greece for her looks and her impeccable service. Well looked after for the biggest part of her carreer, if we were to look at the part of the Greek fleet above 40 years old and choose to keep 2 ships in service, the Kefalonia and the Superferry II would win the contest, hands down.
Back for good, spotting new engines and cpp, more manoeuvrable and equally economic in terms of consumption, she had a great season linking her usual Tinos, Mykonos and Naxos route with Koufonisi. I believe she'd be plug-and-play in a number of routes in the Aegean which she could serve with consistency and profitability. And I do wonder when/if her owners will take the bold decision to expand using her in a new route.
Moving on to some ferries which distinguished themselves for the wrong reasons. The Flyingcat 3 was one of them, having had to suffer one serious engine issue which kept her out for quite some time and a very serious grounding which could have had dramatic repercussions. Two major safety incidents therefore, in the span of 3 months. Not good.
Tantalizingly close to her 50th year of age, the Joan Collins of the Greek ferry scene one could say, she spent the better part of 2 months laid up in Mytilene with serious engine issues which were shrouded in mystery for the most part. Her owners actively shopped around in the spot charter market for a cargo direction India/Pakistan, yet in the end she's still with us after repairs that only the All-Mighty knows how long they will last. Whichever way you look at it, I think she's sailing on borrowed time.
After a whopping 45 days of summer season she is again laid up, following a 10-month lay up she did last year. Her owners are actively trying to sell her, I mean come on. One could say she is the most neutral ferry in the last 30 years or so. No haters, yet no lovers and a completely undistinguished career in Greek waters. I do hope she finds a good home somewhere else.
Those of you who are regular readers, will have followed the story of the poor Saonisos over the last few months. She did not manage to gain permission to sail due to some technicality over the significant wave height she's supposed to be able to sail at and now she's laid up in Lavrion. She looks lovely from the outside and I hope 2021 finds her a good home with plenty of traffic.
That's all folks, next week we go back to the regular news commentary. Those of you who feel the need to ask for some specific content to appear here, you can make your proposals here or by personal message. And we'll see if we can make it happen.
Latest Update: October 12th, 2021
PIRAEUS MAIN PORT
Achaios | Winter lay up since 03.10.2021
Apollon Hellas | Winter lay up since 19.09.2021
Blue Galaxy | Winter lay up since 02.10.2021, back from drydock in Chalkis
Flyingcat 3 | Winter lay up since 19.09.2021
Flyingcat 4 | Winter lay up since 30.09.2021
Flyingcat 6 | Winter lay up since 30.09.2021
Hellenic Highspeed | Winter lay up since 05.10.2021
Highspeed 4 | Winter lay up since 12.09.2021
Tera Jet | Laid up due to the pandemic since 17.06.2020
Thunder | Winter lay up since 19.09.2021
DRAPETSONA REPAIR DOCK (NEOS MOLOS DRAPETSONAS)
Alexandra L | Laid up, since 09.06.2019
Aqua Solution | Laid up since 29.01.2018
Olympus | Winter lay up since 30.08.2021
Smyrna | Under refit since 27.06.2019
Antigoni (ex Poseidonas) | Landing Craft Type Ferry | New ferry for Saronic Ferries | Under major refit
Ariadne | Winter lay up since 09.09.2021
Ayshe | Laid up, since 24.05.2019
Dream Goddess (ex- Berlin) | Arrived in Perama to be converted into a luxury yacht on 30.11.2020
Eleftherios Venizelos | Laid up since 26.04.2020
Express Pegasus | Laid up after grounding off Kasos on 24.08.2020
Kalli P | Laid up since 06.05.2015
Kriti II | Winter lay up, since 16.10.2020
Nissos Aegina | Under conversion since 07.05.2021 for Leve Ferries
Navtilvs | Under conversion since 26.06.2018
Panagia Skiadeni | Laid up due to the pandemic since 22.03.2020
Prevelis | Laid up since 04.10.2021 following her accident in Santorini, drydock completed
Psara Glory | Winter lay up since 09.10.2021
Saga | In Perama since 10.09.2021, adding cabins in order to take up a role as a floating hotel in the Philippines
Supercat Jet | Laid up due to the pandemic since 12.09.2019, renamed Supercat Jet and now flying the Cypriot flag
Superspeed Jet | Laid up due to the pandemic since 27.07.2019, renamed Superspeed Jet and now flying the Cypriot flag
To Kallisto | Laid up since 23.08.2021
Theologos P | Winter lay up since 11.10.2021
Zakynthos I | Idle, since 13.03.2018 | Awaiting her fate
SALAMINA (ALL DOCKS AND YARDS)
Aegean Odyssey | Laid up due to the pandemic since 12.07.2020
Aeolos Kenteris I | Laid up since 05.09.2011
Aeolos Kenteris II | Laid up since 29.08.2011
Cat I (ex Alkyoni) | Under Repairs since 12.07.2019
Damianos | Under refit since 11.10.2015
European Star | Laid up since 17.08.2018
Giannis S (ex Hydra I) | Laid up since 17.07.2009
Ift (ex-Swift 1) | Engines haven been removed. Laid up since 01.11.2017
Iris I | Newly bought catamaran ferry, arrived on 13.12.2020
Panagia Agiasou | Laid up since 19.01.2018
Pearl II | Laid up due to the pandemic since 30.04.2019
Rapidlink Jet | Laid up since 30.11.2019
RCGS Resolute | Laid up since 22.10.2020
Sea Star | Laid up since 06.05.2017
Sifnos Jet | Winter lay up since 18.09.2021
Speed Cat 1 | Laid up since 11.09.2016
St Damian | Winter lay up since 12.10.2021
Superrunner Jet | Winter lay up since 29.09.2021
Symi | Laid up following engine issues since 13.08.2021
Taxiarchis | Laid up to be scrapped since 31.07.2018
Theofilos | Moved from Elefsina Bay anchorage since 07.03.2021
ELEFSINA / ELEFSIS BAY
Antares Experience (former Celestyal Experience) | Laid up due to the pandemic since 13.08.2020
Arsinoi | Rusting away partly submerged, at Elefsina Bay anchorage since 02.06.2009
Horizon | Laid up to be scrapped at Elefsina Bay anchorage, since 18.08.2020
Majesty of the Oceans (Former Majesty of the Seas) | Laid up due to the pandemic since 01.02.2021
Mare I (former Marella Celebration) | Laid up to be scrapped, at Elefsina Bay anchorage since 11.07.2020
Ella, former Marella Dream | Laid up to be scrapped at Elefsina Bay anchorage, since 27.10.2020. Renamed and preparing to sail to the breakers
Mediterranean Sky | Rusting away partly submerged since December 2003
Minerva | Laid up since 07.10.2017, to be converted into a private yacht
Mytilene | Laid up, at Elefsina Bay anchorage since 03.07.2016
Penelope A | Laid up, at Elefsina Bay anchorage since 18.06.2014
Samos Spirit | Laid up since 05.03.2017
Superferry II | Laid up since 10.10.2021, sold and delivered to Seajets, to be renamed Super Star
CHALKIDA (CHALKIS YARDS @ AVLIDA)
Andros Jet | Winter lay up since 20.07.2020
Aqua Star | Winter lay up since 22.09.2021
Artemis I K | Laid up
Crown Iris | Laid up due to the pandemic since 29.11.2019
Golden Iris | Laid up since 23.11.2018
High Speed Jet | Laid up since 04.04.2009
HSC Cat (ex- Sea Speed Jet)| Laid up since 01.06.2014
Hydra Cat | Laid up since 2005
Greco Sea | Former Ilion, laid up since 11.03.2018
Mega Jet | Laid up, since 25.09.2019.
Milos Round I | Laid up since 2007
Naxos Jet| Winter lay up since 16.09.2021
Ocean Majesty | Laid up due to the pandemic since 29.02.2020
Paros Jet | Winter lay up since 05.10.2021
Samos Flying Solphin I | Laid up since 2009
Spetses Cat | Laid up since 2005
Starflyer | Laid up due to the pandemic since 05.10.2020, now moved to Chalkis Shipyards anchorage since 06.09.2021
Celestyal Crystal | Winter lay up since 28.08.2021
Celestyal Olympia | Winter lay up since 30.08.2021
Macedon | Winter lay up since 03.10.2021, drydock complete and sailed back to Lavrion
Saonisos | Laid up since 13.08.2020
The Zenith | Laid up due to the pandemic since 07.07.2020
Panorama | Winter lay up since 03.09.2021
Aegean Majesty (ex- Veendam) | Laid up due to the pandemic since 15.10.2020
Aegean Myth (ex- Maasdam) | Laid up due to the pandemic since 08.09.2020
Queen of the Oceans (ex- Oceana) | Laid up due to the pandemic since 17.07.2020
Kefalonia | Winter lay up since 21.09.2021
Dorieus | Resumed service
Kerkyra Express | Winter lay up since 04.10.2021
Volendam | Laid up due to the pandemic
Zaandam | Laid up due to the pandemic
Aegean Goddess (former Pacific Aria) | Laid up due to the pandemic since 06.11.2020, moved to Heraklion
Santorini Palace | Winter lay up since 27.09.2021
Symi II | Laid up due to the pandemic since 30.10.2019
Friday, October 8th, 2021
You don't need a calendar to tell you which is today's date, all you have to do is take a stroll in Piraeus and see how many berths are now full with ferries that have now started their winter sleep. So I think it's high time we took a look at the main players of the Greek ferry scene and try to recap what kind of summer they have had, in a few words and always according to my humble opinion.
There's a Greek expression used to denote someone for whom everything is going well, it goes something like "if he had a rooster, even the rooster would be laying down eggs". Another great season for Grimaldi in other words, Greek ferry shipping is at his mercy. Literally. His competition -by name only- are running behind their tail and he can pick and choose whether he buys out the whole lot of them, or one of them, or his preferred collection of ships and lines from both of them. At the same time as per his own statement he's the hot favourite to buy the ports of Igoumenitsa and/or Heraklion, he looks unstoppable everywhere in Europe. In the Piraeus - Chania route the Kydon Palace is de facto the busiest ship of the service, the swing of the traffic from ANEK is phenomenal and even the main core of lorry companies who used to support ANEK/Blue Star are now filling up the space of his ships. The Heraklion route was obviously very successful with the calls in Milos filling up the ships on their daytime sailings while there is certainty that the Santorini Palace will be paired with another fast ferry next year, in order to capitalise on it success. Grimaldi can look forward to a winter which will change the Greek ferry landscape, with them calling the shots.
Attica (Blue Star Ferries & Hellenic Seaways):
Nothing different than what we've seen from them the last few years. Schedules built around the subsidies they receive, capitalising on the monopolistic character of some of their routes, mixing up routes in an attempt to fill up ships, rendering their own loyalty scheme pointless in an attempt to save pennies. And in the end of the day, an increasing amount of dissatisfaction about the services they offer in most cases. On the positive side a trouble-free summer for the most part if you take out the engine issues and grounding of the Flyingcat 3, having said that over the last few years the near misses they have had are more than I can remember. So the alarm bells ought to be ringing. Profit wise I believe the summer must have been pretty good, is it enough to cover the losses of the remainder of the year? We shall see. Of course, trying to put myself in their shoes, they're trying to run a company which everyone knows is up for grabs. There's no strategic direction and decision making therefore, they are just trying to manage a situation until the point when the white knight comes in.
They lost the battle of the Chania route to Grimaldi, they barely survived in the Adriatic, the Prevelis soldiered on for another summer but now her damage seems very serious, time consuming and costly to repair. Only bright side is the Heraklion route I believe, where the ships were full and they maintained their market share. There are no 2 ways of going about it, their time is up and decisions will be taken by the banks over the winter. It remains to be seen whether their insignia will be around come next summer and if so, on how many ships and which ships these will be. If we want to look at the bigger picture about them over the years, they have fallen victims of relying too much on the protectionism of the governments as well as preferring to hire local people or people on some way connected to them, rather than hire competent people.
Not much to say about them. What can you possibly say about a company which enjoys a Soviet-type monopoly in Zante and to a very large extent in Kefalonia and Ithaca as well? On one hand their ships are in a very good shape, on the other hand the complaining voices from the islands are becoming stronger especially in terms of the timetables. Speaking of timetables, this was yet another year of complaints about them not respecting the labour law in terms of rest hours for the crew. And by the way, we're eagerly awaiting for the new set of graphic images of the interior of the Smyrna.
Exactly as we were speculating when the Seajets - Golden Star pact leaked out, they were the winners of this war without firing a single shot. Most probably a bigger piece of the Rafina pie for them while the extensions of their service to Koufonisi, Naxos and Paros apparently worked very well, as did the early evening departure from Mykonos on the Ekaterini P. The debut of the Thunder was a partial success. I believe overall it went better than they perhaps expected but my opinion is it could have gone a lot better with some more aggressive advertising as well as tweaked timetables on specific days. The prolongued engine issues did not help either. Good show overall for them, they are a well managed company.
Overall I believe this must have been a very profitable summer for the company under normal circumstances. If you look at their fare prices relative to the sailing distances, it already gives you a hint. Especially intra-Cycladic sailings must be making them a fortune. I just don't know how much of a hit was the Aqua Blue story and the money they spent on repairs, substitutions, getting the Aqua Star ready etc. But all is not rosy in their garden if you ask me. We saw practices and issues that we have seen from them in the past and which were preventing them from being considered as top-notch operators. Several serious engine issues, delayed ships/unrealistic timetables, continuous juggling of the ships in their fleet to the point when one did not know which ship was sailing to where, lack of respect for the passengers. The fact that the Heraklion - Mykonos route ended up being served by 5 different ships this year, tells you all you need to know. Reliability is the key thing they need to improve for next summer.
Golden Star Ferries:
Well these chaps are always in the news. Personally I think they did the right thing by consolidating their operations and calling it a cease fire with Seajets. It did them well to focus on their own business and the signs are that they did very well this summer. Only the fact that the Superexpress' season is extended up to early November, is a sign that the summer was profitable and the traffic is still there. Also the Superferry II did very well in her morning departures from Paros to Rafina, they were amongst the winners of this summer.
Aegean Speed Lines:
A single-ship owner dedicated to a specific route for so many years now. The simplistic thought is that from the moment they keep coming back, they must be making money. At the same time for me, I don't see the growth, I don't see the vision for the future. And I would be curious to hear whether teaming up with Grimaldi did them any real good in their bottomline. It must have been a profitable summer though and the good news is also that the Speedrunner III faced no engine issues at all.
They have finally managed to consolidate their position and end up in a situation where their ships are making money. Perhaps not loads of them but enough for them to survive. The Adamantios Korais is offering stellar service to Samothraki while the Dionisios Solomos is now established in her route. We did not hear anything over the summer from them, signs are that they did well.
Not easy to gauge their season but the fact that they chose to scrap two of their ships without attempting to use them even briefly, tells me that they needed the cash. One positive sign was that the sailings of the Rigel VII to Igoumenitsa and Kefalonia lasted till end September, at the same time I have no idea how good or bad was their summer in the Bari - Durazzo route. Another well-managed company here in terms of survival, but is this enough to bring them growth?
For me both the positive and the negative surprise of the year. Positive in that they showed one can compete against Grimaldi using the right tools, the fact that the Golden Bridge was scoring very high volume numbers in lorries was indicating they have something going on. At the same time and while the discussion about them ought to have been about capitalizing on that success, they stop their Brindisi - Igoumenitsa service overnight, chartering out their best ship with an option to buy(for the charterer). It was proved again here that they are just not interested in building something for the long run, they will maintain their business model centred around asset play and short-term summer sailings.