Coastal shipping gears up for long hot summer

Coastal shipping companies are pulling up their socks in view of the summer season, by far their busiest period, as they aim for a bigger share of the Aegean island transportation market. Even though only seasonal, this market makes a strong contribution to the annual results of companies in the sector. However, things are a little more complicated, especially with regard to some companies’ holdings in other shipping companies. One such case led to passenger ferry Ariadni remaining at anchor in the port of Piraeus for the past few days, as a result of a dispute between shipping companies ANEK and Hellenic Seaways (HSW), in which ANEK holds a 37 percent stake. The vessel had recently been running schedules between Piraeus and Hania under ANEK. As the dispute between the two firms has now been settled, Ariadni is expected to sail again on the Piraeus-Hania route as of June 2. Meanwhile, there would appear to be plenty of reasons for concluding that competition does not always operate in favor of passengers. Most companies have their sights set on the Aegean prime routes, such as certain Cyclades islands, as well as Rhodes, Kos and Crete, on which they operate modern passenger boats and ferries, either conventional or high-speed ones. The high cost of fuel has forced companies to raise fares by up to 15 percent. This, according to shipping officials, was necessary in order for shipping companies to survive, but they will most probably stick to their own pricing policies. The market has already started making offers and discount fares even to the most popular – and usually more expensive – destinations. This summer season, according to the schedules submitted to the Merchant Marine Ministry, almost all of the coastal shipping companies will operate schedules to all destinations in the Aegean, either directly or through other companies in which they hold a stake. Meanwhile, the Association of Coastal Shipping and Steamship Companies has been thrown into commotion by an announcement from Blue Star Ferries that it will freeze the cost of its fares for the entire summer season. The example has so far been followed by Minoan Lines, which also announced discounts of up to 30 percent on its daytime schedules to Crete. Coastal players Among the sector’s major players, ANEK operates its privately owned fleet to Crete (Hania and Iraklion), as well as to Paros, Naxos, Ios and Santorini. In addition, through its holding in HSW, ANEK will also run schedules to the eastern and western Cyclades islands, as well as the eastern and northern Aegean islands. HSW operates schedules between Piraeus and the eastern and western Cyclades and Crete (Rethymnon) by high-speed ferries. Its Nisos Chios and Nisos Myconos passenger ferries will sail to routes in the eastern and northern Aegean, including Chios, Mytilene, Evdilos, Vathi and Karlovasi. Blue Star Ferries, regarded as the sector’s second-biggest company, will this summer operate schedules to the Cyclades islands of Paros, Naxos, Santorini, Syros, Tinos, Myconos, Donousa, Aigiali, Astypalaia, as well as the two largest Dodecanese islands of Rhodes and Kos. This company runs a privately owned fleet of new conventional ferries, offering reduced travel time and high-quality services to passengers. Minoan Lines operates ferries from Piraeus to Crete (Iraklion), some Cyclades islands and eastern and northern Aegean destinations, primarily through its 34 percent holding in HSW. NEL sails to the island of Chios and Mytilene, as well as to the eastern and western Cyclades. GA Ferries operates schedules to both Cycladic and Dodecanese islands. Routes operated by LANE include the islands of Milos, Santorini, Kasos, Karpathos, Chalki, Rhodes and Crete (Iraklion, Siteia). Ventouris Sea Lines has one ferry itinerary to Kythnos, Serifos, Sifnos and Milos. Aegean Speed Lines runs its privately owned high-speed ferry to islands in the western Cyclades. Kallisti Ferries is to operate schedules from Piraeus to the islands of Samos and Icaria, but is also likely to enter the Cyclades market too.