A trip to the Greek islands hadn’t been part of the plan for 2010 – with interesting and untested ships to sail on across the rest of Southern Europe together with a whole host expected to be in their final seasons, the domestic Greek scene, for once, didn’t seem a priority. However, the cancellation of a short cruise on the Island Escape (ex-Scandinavia) in mid-November led to a quick search for alternatives and a five night trip to Greece, out of season, suddenly became very attractive.
Initial plans to focus on the more interesting ex-Japanese tonnage now in operation were partly scuppered by the recent collision with Piraeus’ Northern breakwater (and subsequent absence from service) of Hellenic Seaways’ Nissos Rodos (ex-Kiso) and by ANEK pulling their Lissos (ex-Ferry Hamanasu) from her sailings to the North Aegean. In the event however it turned out to be a remarkably successful short visit – in many ways, the aforementioned scheduling problems apart, the timing was completely fortuitous: each day was sunny and with none of the strong winds that often lead to Greek domestic cancellations. Meanwhile we just missed the 24 hour (later extended to 72 hours+) strike of Greek seafarers which commenced on Tuesday the 23rd – on the European Express from Chios we were one of the last overnight ships arriving into Piraeus that day, actually berthing an hour or so after the official start of the industrial action.
The most notable difference being in Piraeus and its surrounding areas in November compared to the peak season is the large number of normally operational ships laid up – both those in seasonal use (mostly fast craft and cruise ships) or those which happened to be out of service for their annual refits. In addition, there remain the ships of GA Ferries and SAOS, operators whose financial troubles have forced them largely out of business. Whilst the SAOS fleet is dispersed across the country, with only their Panagia Agiasou laid up in Piraeus outer harbour, the ships of GA’s passenger fleet can all be found locally – five in the inner harbour and three more adjacent to the ‘Agiasou’. Other than the fast craft Jet Ferry 1 all have recently been offered for sale by the harbour authority which, in one of the less attractive pitches to prospective purchasers, describes them as “dangerous and harmful”.
I will add more pictures from this trip in due course but for starters here are some of those GA ships and their long-term SAOS co-resident. For the record, the title of this entry is perhaps slightly misleading – the ships aren’t entirely abandoned and it seems that one ship in each of the two batches has at least one watchman on duty with the Rodanthi and Anthi Marina serving as their respective basecamps.
In the outer harbour, adjacent to the current berths of the Blue Star Rhodes and Crete ships can be found the Anthi Marina (ex-Spirit of Free Enterprise/Pride of Kent), Milena (ex-Ferry Gold), Dimitroula (ex-Verga) and SAOS's Panagia Agiasou (ex-Hakata).
From a distance the Anthi Marina doesn't look that bad given her two years laid up.
Up close she is rather more decrepit - although still by far the most likely of GA Ferries' conventional ships to see any further service. A few more images of this ship will be posted in the next week or so.
The Dimitroula was originally one of Tirrenia's eight-strong 'Poeti' class - indeed she was the last of the eight ship-class. Like her identical sister the Deledda she was slightly different to the earlier six and was not stretched by her original owners. Thus she was in pretty much original condition when she passed to GA in 1997. Now the last-surviving Poeti, it seems almost impossible she will ever see service again.
The Dimitroula from astern - as with all these ships, the stern ramp is lowered, but the car deck has been rudimentarily barricaded to prevent squatters or the otherwise curious.
Adjacent to the Dimitroula, SAOS's Panagia Agiasou.
The Panagia Agiasou from astern.
The Jet Ferry 1 (ex-Kattegat) has been seized by the bank which had originally mortgaged her. She is laid up in the inner harbour adjacent to what are normally nowadays the berths of the smaller Blue Star ships - right in the traditional heart of Piraeus ferryport, over the road from the electric railway station.
(Jet Ferry 1)
The other batch of four GA Ferries can be found adjacent to the berth of Ventouris Sea Lines' Agios Georgios. From left to right, the Marina (ex-Green Ace), the Romilda (ex-Free Enterprise VIII), the Rodanthi (ex-Virgo) and the Daliana (ex-Ferry Pearl).
The Romilda was one of the last of the fleet to stay in service, but has been in quite poor internal condition for many years.
The Romilda from astern.
What does the future hold...?
The Romilda at night.
The Rodanthi, Romilda and Marina.
The long-term movement of the stern ramp against the quay has in several cases caused some quite notable damage to the quayside - as seen in this image at the stern of the Rodanthi.
Daliana and Rodanthi.
Daliana at night.
The sterns of the laid up ships are popular locations for local fishermen.