Posts tagged: saos

Farewell Viking Voyager, Pride of Cherbourg, Banaderos, Barlovento, Samothraki

The Samothraki leaving Mytilene in July 2007.

The recent arrival of the Samothraki (ex-Viking Voyager) at Aliagia in Turkey for scrapping was perhaps not in itself a surprise but her demise, together with that a couple of years ago of her stretched sisters (the former Vikings Valiant and Venturer) leaves only the present Vitsentzos Kornaros (ex-Viking Viscount) of the quartet of ferries delivered to Townsend Thoresen in 1975/76 by Aalborg Vaerft in Denmark.

Somewhat surprisingly, the class has actually been out-survived by the generation of ships they were designed to replace – Thoresen’s original Viking trio of which two remain, only the pioneer Viking I having been dismantled, in 2008 after a legendary 44 year career. Her sister, the Viking II, later Earl William, now somewhat battered, survives in static use at Chaguaramas in Trinidad. The Viking III of 1965 meanwhile remains in service on one of Southern Europe’s more notorious ferry backwaters – the route between Brindisi in Southern Italy and Vlore in Albania.

The careers of these seven Vikings show just how the destinies of individual ships are affected by acts, if not quite of luck then certainly by events outside which the performance of an individual vessel can have a substantial impact. I last sailed on the Samothraki in 2007 and she was in perfectly good order and one would have bet on her running on her operations in the North Aegean for many years to come. The sudden and spectacular demise of her owners, SAOS Ferries, and the laying up of essentially their entire fleet in late 2008 saw her decline through neglect from serviceable flagship to unwanted scrapper.

Through whatever channels SAOS had managed to build up their network of subsidised routes, things came crashing down around the company and the Samothraki ended her days in Greece virtually abandoned in Alexandroupoli. One found it hard to imagine that this well-built and reliable ship would never operate again but the decay which sets in quickly in such circumstances evidently overtook her. The dismal state of the Greek economy meant local buyers with cash to invest were few and far between and it eventually became apparent that the ship’s future lay only at the scrapyard.

The Viking Voyager and Viking Viscount were originally delivered for operation on Townsend Thoresen’s Felixtowe-Zeebrugge service and they remained there until 1986 when, replaced by a pair of converted Stena Searunner class freighters, they moved West to operate from Portsmouth alongside their recently-stretched sisterships, the latter pair covering primarily the Le Havre run with the unstretched sisters operating to Cherbourg. Renamed Pride of Cherbourg in 1989, the ship was sold to Lineas Fred. Olsen for Canaries service in 1994, with her sister going to LANE Lines of Greece.

Fred. Olsen looked after the ship well, but after bearing the names Banaderos and Barlovento, she was replaced in 2005 and acquired by SAOS and renamed Samothraki, effectively replacing the former Vortigern in their fleet. In her initial summer season, still with a white hull, the ship could be found regularly in the Port of Piraeus, not too far from the berth of her sister. Thereafter however the Samothraki was focused on operations in the far northern Aegean, and by 2007 one could island hop around these relatively remote islands on the SAOS local fleet including the Samothraki, the Express Limnos (ex-Prins Philippe) and the rather less agreeable Panagia Soumela (ex-Lady of Mann) – a ship whose own final voyage to the scrapyard is imminent.

It is in this busy time, not long before the sudden end, that I will remember the ship. I made three sailings on her in the Summer of 2007 as we explored the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samothraki and Limnos and the onboard pictures below were taken during this period. Although in the late 1980s P&O subjected the original, quite funky, interiors to an overlayering of light wood veneers, pastel seating and conservative decor, the ship’s basic layout changed little over the years. She retained the bulk of that P&O-era look until the end, with a few Fred. Olsen tweaks here and there. As the Vitsentzos Kornaros, the ship’s sister operates with some minimal subdivision as a two class vessel but SAOS never tried to implement this on the Samothraki and passengers were given a free run of the ship.

Seen from the departing Panagia Soumela, the Samothraki at Kavala on July 18, 2007.

Seen from the departing Panagia Soumela, the Samothraki at Kavala on July 18, 2007.

Looking aft in the forward section of the main passenger deck, with the bar and seating areas.

Looking aft in the forward section of the main passenger deck, with the bar and seating areas.

A little further aft and here is the reception desk area with the old shops, little used in SAOS service, to starboard.

A little further aft and here is the reception desk area with the old shops, little used in SAOS service, to starboard.

The self service seating area, amidships on Deck 6 (originally C Deck).

The self service seating area, amidships on Deck 6 (originally C Deck).

On the starboard side, with a playroom now installed in the former drivers' area.

On the starboard side, with a playroom now installed in the former drivers' area.

Food doesn't seem to be served here very often...

Food doesn't seem to be served here very often...

Right aft, the former restaurant with its associated cocktail bar - an arrangement which, as built, was similar in concept to the forward Smörgåsbord restaurants of other 1970s ferries such as the Gustav Vasa, Nils Dacke, Prince of Fundy and Prins Oberon.

Right aft, the former restaurant with its associated cocktail bar - an arrangement which, as built, was similar in concept to the forward Smörgåsbord restaurants of other 1970s ferries such as the Gustav Vasa, Nils Dacke, Prince of Fundy and Prins Oberon.

Right aft.

Right aft.

Moving upstairs to Deck 7, forward was the former Club lounge, installed by P&O in what had originally been an area of cabins.

Moving upstairs to Deck 7, forward was the former Club Lounge, installed by P&O in what had originally been an area of cabins.

Up on Deck 8 were a pair of lounges, the forward of which is seen here. This originally housed an open area of couchettes but latterly was a reclining seat lounge with P&O.

Up on Deck 8 were a pair of lounges, the forward of which is seen here. This originally housed an open area of couchettes but latterly was a reclining seat lounge with P&O.

Heading aft again, this lounge was added to the ship early in her career and previously served as a cinema.

Heading aft again, this space was added to the ship early in her career and previously served as a cinema.

Looking over the ship's prow in the mainland port of Kavala.

Looking over the ship's prow in the mainland port of Kavala.

The forward outside deck area.

The forward outside deck area.

Aalborg builder's plate.

Aalborg builder's plate.

Starboard side promenade deck.

Starboard side promenade deck.

The view forward on Deck 9.

Astern on Deck 7.

Astern on Deck 7.

Foot passengers disembarking by the stairs aft, accessed via the upper vehicle deck.

Foot passengers disembarking by the stairs aft, accessed via the upper vehicle deck.

The demise of the Samothraki, the impending scrapping of the Romilda (ex-Free Enterprise VIII) and the abandonment in Vlore of the Veronica Line (ex-Free Enterprise V) leaves just the Vitsentzos Kornaros from Townsend Thoresen’s early/mid 1970s newbuild programme within easy reach. These ships, whilst in some ways less stylish and built nearer to the margins than their Sealink rivals, were and are representative of the market-dominating private ferry company of the age and helped lay the foundations for the ongoing strength of P&O today – albeit now shorn of both the Western Channel and Belgian routes that the Super Vikings were designed to operate.

Although her demise was prolonged, the end of operations for the Samothraki was rather sudden. And, whilst the Vitsentzos Kornaros has now operated reliably for ANEK-controlled LANE Lines for nearly as long as she sailed from the UK, the state of the Greek economy means that nothing is certain anymore. Indeed, LANE’s current three-year subsidy agreement (agreed in 2009) supposedly requires at some stage the replacement of the ‘VK’ – therefore anyone who wants to experience one of these James Ayers-designed ships really should try to sail on her sooner rather than later.

The Vitsentzos Kornaros in dry dock in Piraeus, November 2010.

The Vitsentzos Kornaros in dry dock in Piraeus, November 2010.

The Samothraki departs.

Greece in November: the abandoned ships of Piraeus

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).

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

Adjacent to the Dimitroula, SAOS's Panagia Agiasou.

The Panagia Agiasou from astern.

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.

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)

(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 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 Marina.

The Marina.

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 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.

The Romilda from astern.

What does the future hold...?

What does the future hold...?

The Romilda at night.

The Romilda at night.

The Rodanthi.

The Rodanthi.

The Rodanthi, Romilda and Marina.

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.

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 and Rodanthi.

Daliana.

Daliana.

Daliana.

Daliana.

Daliana at night.

Daliana at night.

The sterns of the laid up ships are popular locations for local fishermen.

The sterns of the laid up ships are popular locations for local fishermen.

Picture of the Week – 26 January 2009

Panagia Soumela (ex-Lady of Mann) at Myrina, Limnos, 18 July 2007

Panagia Soumela (ex-Lady of Mann) at Myrina, Limnos, 18 July 2007 (click for larger image)

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