Fast Ferries, One Of The Last Traditional Greek Ferry Operators

Ferry Shipping News has visited the traditional family-owned Fast Ferries and had a short conversation with the Commercial Manager, Mr. Dimitrios Tsoumas. The company and its activities, the ports they are operating, the consequences of Covid-19 as well as the emission regulations were some of the topics discussed.

You are one of the last and very important traditional Greek Ferry Operators. Can you tell us a few things about the past and the future of your company?

Fast Ferries is a traditional Greek-owned Ferry Operator (Panagiotakis family), which was founded in the 80s with landing ferries and served the Corfu – Igoumenitsa and Kavalla – Thasos routes. Panagiotakis family is also operating -till today- the “Megalochari tugs” as well as a small shipyard at Salamina (an island close to Attica prefecture, near Perama), which offers a variety of shipping services such as new constructions, repairing and dry-docking for vessels up to 90 metres long.

In 2007, Fast Ferries started a new operation on the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line introducing the large RoPax Ferry THEOLOGOS P. (7.326gt/2000). One of the newest and most modern ferries of the line, which was fully rebuilt in 2006.

That business venture was so successful that FAST FERRIES decided –in 2012- to leave the Corfu – Igoumenitsa route and transfer all its operations, including its second vessel EKATERINI P. (3.948gt/1990), to the Rafina-Cyclades route.

In 2015, despite the economic crisis FAST FERRIES decided to further invest on the line and add a third vessel to its fleet, the Japanese built FAST FERRIES ANDROS (7.786gt/1989). She underwent a large-scale refurbishment in her interior and machinery, added stabilizers and was introduced on the same route in August 2015.

At the same time, we have opened the Rafina-Tinos-Mykonos-Naxos line introducing the upgraded EKATERINI P., which was also a complete success.

In 2019 and before the Covid-19 struck we dared to purchase the HSC THUNDER. A very modern high-speed craft that we intended to introduce within the Hellenic Coastal Shipping. However, the Covid-19 developments have overtaken us and today we are making our future plans very carefully.

In any case, we strongly believe that the best way to promote our company’s development is to make small and well estimated steps, avoiding as much as we can a possible high-risk bank exposure. However, the current financial situation does not allow us to take a high risk at least until the crisis is over. We prefer to have a very good knowledge of the market as well as the passengers and sea transportation needs and offer high quality vessels and services.

You are mainly serving the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line which is a highly competitive line. Can you describe its major characteristics?

The above line is mainly based on three islands with significant growth, in every level and with significant passenger traffic during the summer season. As a result, there is a strong presence of many companies with different types of ships introduced for a long period of time. The distances are relatively short, the services are too many and the seasonality of the line is very strong, while the traffic shows big differences between the days, even at the same period of time. It is very characteristic the fact that many Greek passengers are moving on that line, as well as foreign tourists, which mainly visit the island of Mykonos.

The last 5 years the port of Rafina is increasingly developed. What is the reason for this and is the specific Port prepared to deal with that boom?

The port of Rafina is the second largest port of Attica and very close to the EL. VENIZELOS airport. That makes it a very significant infrastructure for the further development of the islands of the line. However, despite the tremendous development it has not been improved much through the years. It has mainly structural problems in planning and accessing, which require important political decisions and large funding to solve.

Covid-19 has created a lot of trouble to the Hellenic Coastal Shipping. How do you deal with it and what would be eventually the cost for Coastal Ferry Operators?

The effects of the pandemic on Greek Coastal Shipping are already apparent and have a significant impact on the ferry companies’ transportation figures as well as on their finances. A situation that will probably continue in the next few years. As a small ferry company, we strive to move both in the direction of continued operation and service of the line -even with reduced routes- and to ensure the continuity of the company’s operation for the coming years with the fewest possible losses. For these reasons, we are moving conservatively and prudently. However, we will definitely need the support of the State as well as the European Union’s in order to ensure the viability of our businesses and the job retention A problem that apparently is not only ours but also addressed in a European level.

Final question: Is the company prepared to meet with the new strict European regulations about the reduction of the emissions?

We are following the developments and the relative regulations closely and we are willing to make the proper and necessary adjustments if needed. However, we must carefully consider our options both financially and technically because there are certain parameters that are often affected by the specifications and characteristics of each vessel. Parameters such as the ship’s size, age and potentials as well as the possibilities of implementation and depreciation of such investments in relation to the main characteristics, the dynamic and the size of the lines in which the specific ships operate.