GA Ferries Anthi Maria, Maria,Romilda, Rodanthi and Daliana photographed Port of Piraeus Athens 2011
GA Ferries Anthi Maria, Maria,Romilda, Rodanthi and Daliana photographed operating out of Port of Piraeus Athens 2011
G.A. Ferries, a company belonging to Gerasimos Agoudimos, started operations at the end of 80's with three ferries: the Japanese twins renamed "Milena" and "Daliana" and the ex-channel ferry "Earl Harold", previously called "Ailsa Princess", which was named "Dimitra". The first routes where these ships were deployed were the Central Cyclades (Syros – Tinos – Myconos - Paros – Naxos – Ios – Santorini), Ikaria, Samos, Crete and Rhodes via Crete – Karpathos.
Since 1991 the flagship of the fleet is the beautiful "Rodanthi", which was deployed along "Daliana" on the route Piraeus – Rhodes via Cyclades – Crete – Karpathos; at the end of 1992 a fift ship joined the G.A. Ferries operations: the "Romilda", well know as the Channel ferry "Hengist" later "Stena Hengist". Also this ship started to link Piraeus and Rhodes, but calling at Patmos, Kalymnos, Kos, Nissiros, Tilos and Symi instead of Crete and Karpathos. In 1993 G.A. Ferries tried to enter the Adriatic market, deploying their splendid flagship "Rodanthi" to Ancona – Corfu – Igoumenitsa – Patras line.
Subsequently was unexpectedly accompanied by the new "Romilda": this because the ex - "Free Enterprise VIII", although bought to serve domestic links to substitute the first "Romilda", was flagged out from the Greek Registry along with "Rodanthi" for unknown reasons. However, probably because the "Romilda" was not suitable for long crossings like these from Ancona to Patras, probably because, even if the "Rodanthi" is fantastic had to front ships like the "Ionian Island", "Fedra", "El Greco", "Ionian Galaxy", "Daedalus" and the new entry on Ancona market "El. Venizelos", probably because the improbable summer timetable (departing from Ancona Tuesday and Thursday at 20.00 to Corfu (16.00) and Igoumenitsa (17.00) continuing on Saturday crossing also to Patras (23.00)) was almost never performed, the international link was abandoned the following year for the lucrative domestic market. Moreover, in 1994 the "Marina" which for three years was advertised to be rebuilt, entered at least on Piraeus – Dodecanese – Rhodes line, along with "Rodanthi" and confirming the high standards on board the flagship. In 1995 the original "Dimitra" was substituted by the new one, previously the "Ionian Sea" of Strintzis, bought together with Dane Sea Line which, in 1997, entirely bought the vessel. G.A. Ferries decided to substitute her with an ex-Tirrenia, ferry, the "Verga" which was renamed "Dimitroula" and started to ply the Thessaloniki – Sporades – Cyclades – Crete line together with Minoan Lines's "El Greco".
At the end of 1999 G.A. Ferries bought a fast monohull, the "Express Ionion", which won a service permission to Cephalonia and Ithaca from Patras; in November 1999 the company belonging to Gerasimos Agoudimos sold the 46% stake of her capital to Minoan Flying Dolphins: the consequences were that the Akti Kondyli building became the Head Office of M.F.D. and of her subsidiaries "Hellas Ferries" and "Saronikos Ferries" and, unfortunately, theater of Pandelis Sfinias's suicide; the "Express Ionion" changes her name to "JetFerry 1", a name recalling M.F.D. and painted very similar to M.F.D. catamarans instead being painted as all G.A. ships; finally two orders of 150 metres / 29 knots ferries from Aker Finnyards of Rauma were cancelled.
After some years of very close service with H.F.D., on 2003 Gerasimos Agoudimos bought back the stake capital in H.F.D. hands then, considering that in 2005 "Daliana" and "Milena" will be 35 years old and the "Marina" 34, started to buy some vessels: on summer 2003 the "PO Kent", renamed "Anthi Marina" and deployed on November 2003 on Piraeus – Dodecanese line; on March 2004 the "PO Canterbury", renamed "Alkimini A" and deployed on the new line Brindisi – Corfu – Igoumenitsa from June; that ship was subsequently sold to Polferries in October 2004; then on summer 2004 the company announced also the purchase of the "Arborea" from Tirrenia, due to join the fleet in September 2004, but soon after G.A. Ferries decided to quit its offer leaving the ferry to the Italian company.
Finally, the company bought the "Pride of Provence" from P&O, which should start her services in 2005: after a while was chartered out to Kystlink.
MV Anthi Marina ΑΝΘΗ ΜΑΡΙΝΑ
"Spirit of Free Enterprise" was launched in 1979 and left Bremerhaven yards on January 1980 to link the English port of Dover to Calais in France and Zeebrugge in Belgium under Townsend Thoresen's colours; she was the first of three sisters: the most famous one was the "Herald of Free Enterprise", well known first because of the record Channel crossing of July 1980, when she linked Dover and Calais in 52 minutes and 53 seconds, then because of her tragedy, happened on March 6th, 1987, when soon after the departure from Zeebrugge she capsized causing the death of 193 passengers. Probably also because of that tragedy the English "TT" ceased their services and the ferries were sold to P&O, maintaining the same services;
the "Spirit" was renamed "Pride of Kent". At the end of 1991 P&O decided to rebuilt the ferry at Fincantieri yard of Palermo, Italy; she returned from Italy lengthened by 32 metres and with increased figures of GRT, DWT, passenger and cargo capacity, but her unique ugliness remained the same! She maintained the same link between Dover and Calais for 11 years between June 1992 and June 2003, but she changed her name two times: the first one at the end of 1998, under the alliance between P&O and Stena Line, when she was renamed "P&O SL Kent" and then, at the end of the alliance, from November 2002 to June 2003 she beared the name "PO Kent".
When she was bought by G.A. Ferries, the owner Gerasimos Agoudimos was searching a ferry able to front the swift "Blue Star 1" of Attica Enterprises: the solution was this ferry, capable of a maximum speed of 23,75 knots; in fact the "Anthi Marina" sails to Rhodes the same days of "Blue Star 1" departing two hours earlier. I don't know the origin of "Anthi Marina" name, probably it's a spell of "Rodanthi" and "Marina"; in my opinion, as the Greek word "anthi" (anqh) means "in front of" or also "opposite", as I saw in some G.A. Ferries advertisings, this ship is really the opposite of "Marina", both for the ugly exterior appearance and the interiors, typical of a '60/'70's ferry which wasn't converted as a "cruise-ferry".
After a spell serving only Rhodes, she started again serving also Patmos, Leros, Kos, Syros and Mykonos; it seems that for economic reasons the ferry maintains a cruise-speed of 18 knots. What a delusion…
MV Daliana ΝΤΑΛΙΑΝΑ
Coming from Japan, bought when she was 18 years old, was one of the first three ferries of the company founded by Gerasimos Agoudimos in 1991, together with her sister "Milena" and the "Dimitra". Was extensively refitted to give her a "Cruise-Ferry" appearance; the only things that I can notice from the photos I have is the replacement of the funnels, after her entrance in the fleet.
In her first years under G.A. Ferries livery was usually deployed on the long run between Piraeus and Rhodes via Paros, Naxos, Ios (less frequently), Santorini, Heraklion, Kassos, Karpathos and Chalki; later was also on routes to Ikaria and Samos, then, for a period, she ran along with "El Greco" between Thessaloniki and Heraklion stopping at almost all the islands on her way.
In 2002 season is again on Ikaria – Samos line, linking also once a week the Dodecanese islands of Patmos, Leros and Lipsoi. On 2003 she remains mainly employed on Samos line, serving also Chios and being diverted once a week to Western Cyclades line; on 2004 summer instead, was totally on Ikaria – Samos line, calling once a week also in Kavala, Limnos, Lesvos and Chios. Her Greek career came to an end in 2005, and in the summer she'll sail together with her sister on the new international service Brindisi – Cephalonia – Zakynthos – Patras.
F/B Dimitroula ΔΗΜΗΤΡΟΥΛΑ
An example of an Italian-built ship which has found her second life in Greece, was purchased by G.A. Ferries in 1997 to substitute the "Dimitra", taken over by DANE. Was delivered to the Italian State-owned company Tirrenia in 1978 as the last ferry of "Poeti" class, formed by eight ferries. In fact, the ferry was not identical with the earlier six vessels, but, as the seventh vessel "Deledda" was younger, had more powerful 16-cylindres Fiat engines and lacked the "lido deck" with swimming-pool, which was fitted on the other six "Poeti" ferries. She was under Tirrenia marks for almost twenty years, serving many routes in the Thyrrenian sea, mainly linking Genoa with Olbia and Arbatax in Sardinia island; was then sold to G.A. Ferries in 1997.
The ferry was delivered in Naples and a friend of mine told me many fun stories about Gerasimos Agoudimos; then, in Greece, she started a new service under the new Agoudimos colours, linking along with "El Greco" of Minoan Lines, Thessaloniki and Heraklion, although, differently from Minoan service, was linking many more islands (Skiathos, Skyros, Andros, Tinos, Mykonos, Syros, Paros, Naxos, Ios, Santorini) and once a week calling also at Piraeus. From the following year the Thessaloniki line was performed by "Daliana", so this ferry was diverted to Dodecanese, both on Dodecanese islands line and the long run passing from Heraklion, Kassos and Karpathos, remaining on these lines until spring 2002, when she started the Piraeus – Chios – Mitilini line in "Fedra" 's place. Despite good financial results on summer 2003 is mainly employed on Dodecanese services; instead, since summer 2004, her main service is to Cyclades, Ikaria, Samos and often also to Chios, Mytilene, Limnos and Kavala. Surely, considering her timetable, it would be very hard for her to stole some travellers to Nel Lines.
MV Marina ΜΑΡΙΝΑ
Probably the longer refit of a ship acquired by a Greek operator, the "Marina" was bought at the end of 1990 and taken over in 1991. Announced to enter the service in all G.A. Ferries advertisements and brochures from 1991, she started sailing as "Marina" only in 1994, but the result of the refit is fantastic
I had the chance to see a photo of "Green Ace" and I can say that is almost impossible to relate the Hiroshima Green Funnel ship to the "Marina"... and, although very similar as built to her fleet mates "Green Arrow" and "Green Arch", today the "Marina" is far better of "Express Aris" and "Ierapetra L." respectively! Under her days operating for the "green ferries" was linking Hiroshima to Osaka; then was sold to Kansai Kisen when, in 1982, Hiroshima Green Ferry ran out of business: transferred to the subsidiary Diamond Ferry and renamed as "Okudogo 6", was linking Kobe (Honshu) with Matsuyama (Shikoku) and Oita (Kyushu).
As a G.A. Ferries ship, she performed the Dodecanese line for all her career, opponed to Dane Sea Line ferries and matched alternatively by "Dimitra", "Rodanthi", "Daliana" or "Dimitroula". Probably one of the best ferries to Rhodes, in 2002 season she has find the competition of Blue Star Ferries, which put their 2000-built "Blue Star 1" on the same services of "Marina", leaving Piraeus at 20.00 three times a-week (three/four hours after G.A. Ferries) and arriving in Rhodes the day after at 07.20 (same time of the G.A. Ferries faster departures).
Gerasimos Agoudimos has attacked the ministry for the decision to give a licence to Blue Star, but Attica Enterprises has introduced a real competition on Rhodes line. I think that it would be a great idea for Mr Agoudimos to have a look at Japanese ferries for sale: it would be a great idea to convert a ten year old Japanese ferry (almost all have a speed of 24/25/27 knots) that would be competitive with Blue Star rather than shouting with the Minister; unfortunately his answer to Blue Star is the "Anthi Marina", which is far millions of years from cruise-ferry concept… So let's hope that the cancellation of the law which forces the Greek ship-owners to use ferries younger than 35 years-old would be cancelled soon enough to save this fantastic ferry from the scrap. The 2006 was started as the first ferry entering Piraeus port, even if I fear that it's one of her last entrances.
MV Romilda ΡΟΜΙΛΤΑ
Sailing with G.A. Ferries since 1993, has served almost all routes performed by Gerasimos Agoudimos's company, having visited all the Greek ports. Launched in 1974, she was the 8th and the last ferry of "Free Enterprise" series; even if she resembles very much the appearance of the former IV, V, VI and VII vessels and was also built in the same country, Holland, is not a sister of the former four ferries, being built in a different yard and having different measurements. Another funny thing to notice is that, as long as the best part of ferries have one, two or four main engines, this ferry has three main engines, a very uncommon feature!
Under her years of service for the Anglo-Norwegian company Townsend Thoresen and P&O was departing from Dover to Zeebrugge and Boulogne. Bought with the target of substituting the old "Romilda" (nowadays known as "Agios Georgios" of Ventouris) on Dodecanese line, was unexpectedly flagged out from Greek Shipping Registry, it seems because of the not permitted change of operating licence from the original "Romilda" to the new "Romilda". As long as G.A. Ferries could not employ this ferry in any of domestic services, they decided to put her on the new line Ancona – Corfu – Igoumenitsa – Patras together with the flagship "Rodanthi"; however the challenge with the other ferry operators on Ancona route and the timetable of Romilda, which sailed together with the splendid Strintzis Lines's flagship "Ionian Island" led to the failure of Adriatic services so, after a new procedure to enter the Greek Shipping Registry, the ship was finally deployed in the Aegean.
She started serving the Dodecanese, but was moved also on services to Ikaria and Samos, then again to Rhodes, passing via Milos, Sitia (Crete), Kassos, Karpathos and Chalki (but also via Syros – Paros – Naxos – Ios – Santorini – Heraklion). The "Romilda" has also experienced two new ferry routes: one leaving Rhodes and arriving in Alexandropolis, passing by almost all the islands along Turkish coast, and the other leaving Nafplion, on Peloponnese Eastern Coast, to Aegean islands. On winter 2000/01 has substituted the "JetFerry 1" from Patras to Cephalonia and Ithaki, being deployed on summer 2003 to Western and Central Cyclades.
On summer 2004 is again on her previous year's services, but on week-end she also comes down to the southern Ionian islands of Kithira and Antikithira, which are linked also to Gythion, a small town 50 km south of Sparti, in the Peloponnese district of Lakonia. Wiewing the actual situation of Greek ferry scene, also the "Romilda" has cut her services, sailing only twice a week to "Paronaxia", once to Amorgos and the nearby smaller islands, and once also to Rhodes calling at Amorgos, Astypalea, Nissiros, Tilos and Symi, on a extremely slow timetable, avoiding to "Rodanthi" the weekly call at the smaller islands on the way to Rhodes. She is not a really loved ferry, but is one of G.A. Ferries's main ships.
MV Rodanthi ΡΟΔΑΝΘΗ
Flagship of G.A. Ferries, was bought in 1989 from Higashi Nippon Ferry of Japan, which operated her as "Virgo" on connections between Hokkaido and Honshu. She spent all 1990 year on refit at Perama, where she was fitted with restaurant, self service, disco and swimming pool, entering in service on summer 1991. With this ferry the concept of "cruise ferry" was expanded also to the Rhodes Line, where Rodanthi was deployed, serving also Paros, Ios, Santorini, Heraklion and Karpathos.
After two successful years of services, the board of G.A. Ferries decided to explore the Italy – Greece market, linking Ancona with Corfu, Igoumenitsa and Patras, competing with the veterans of this international service, Anek Lines, Strintzis Lines, Minoan Lines, Marlines and Karageorgis. The planned timetable is two sailings per-week from Ancona to Patras via Corfu and Igoumenitsa on low season, but on high season the timetable featured a very-improbable three sailings per week to Corfu and Igoumenitsa, arriving at Patras on Saturday departure.
This second timetable in fact was never performed; moreover, the high competition forced G.A. Ferries to close the Adriatic line after only one year, redeploying back to Aegean the "Rodanthi" which left this sea only on summer 1995, when she was chartered to COTUNAV. After the international experiences of mid 90's, the "Rodanthi" was always on Rhodes line, but not via Crete: she linked Piraeus with other Dodecanese islands (Patmos, Leros, Kalymnos, Kos, Nissiros, Tilos, Symi), approaching often also at Paros, Naxos, Syros and Astypalea and, from 2002, arriving also at Kastelorizo.
On summer 1996 the ship left Rhodes line being deployed on a daily basis to Paros, Naxos and Santorini serving twice a-week also Syros, leaving from Piraeus at 20.00, arriving at Santorini the next day at 05.00, departing back at 07.30, docking at 16.00 in Piraeus. On that year I had the pleasure to sail aboard "Rodanthi", on 25/06 from Piraeus to Santorini and, two days after, from Santorini to Paros: on my opinion she is one of the best ferries sailing in Greece, but a recent enquiry of ADAC, the German Automobile Club, indicates her as one of the worst ferries in the Mediterranean concerning safety on board, classified as 33rd on 34 ferries inspected (34th was the Tirrenia's "Flaminia").
Surely ADAC's observations are right, and probably the new entries in GA Ferries's fleet are far better about safety, but no one of recent acquisitions is converted as a beautiful cruise-ferry as Greeks did between the end of 80's and the beginning of 90's. On 2005 she still sails to Rhodes, calling only at the main islands on the route, performing three round-trips per week and remaining at Piraeus on Saturday. Is the ship getting too old or is the company which wants to save money on fuel?
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