After the ship received the blessings of a Greek Orthodox priest, Dutch Transport, Public Works and Water Management Minister Tiny Netelenbos smashed the traditional champagne bottle and named the high-speed vessel “Blue Star 1”, which cruised smoothly off the slipway into the sea accompanied by the sound of a long horn blast, in the event staged at the Rotterdam yards. GN is considered one of the Netherlands` few remaining shipbuilding powerhouses which has managed to survive fierce competition from highly efficient producers in Korea and other countries. Local residents, many of whom are employed or whose relatives work with the company, attend launchings, representing a long tradition in seafaring and shipping – something which links the Netherlands closely with Greece.
Flying under the flag of Strintzis` new Blue Star Ferries line, the roll-on/roll off passenger vessel is the first of two ordered for delivery within 2000 as part of the company`s major fleet renovation programme. Blue Star 1 will be deployed on the Patras-Brindisi-Ancona route and is considered a major step forward in terms of speed, passenger comfort and safety.
The impressive new ferry is 172 metres long, 26 metres wide and has a depth of 15 metres. It has a 1,600-passenger capacity and can carry 130 truck-trailer combinations and 106 cars. Able to reach a maximum speed of 28 knots, it is appointed with two restaurants, a café, night club, bar lounge, conference area, casino, two cinemas, children`s playroom, boutiques, swimming pool and sun deck.
Blue Star 1, whose interior has not yet been completed, is due to be delivered to Strintzis at the end of May while its sister ship Blue Star 2 should be ready nine weeks later.
“Thanks to our quick and efficient construction method, this order has enabled us to counter the increasingly intense international competition,” said GN managing director Dick Brink. “It is also highly unusual that we will be handing over the sister ship, the Blue Star 2, to Strintzis Lines only nine weeks after we deliver the Blue Star 1. That will truly be a tremendous achievement.”
Brink noted that the contract for the construction of the Blue Star 1 – which he said should be “a real money maker” – was signed in July 1998 while the keel laying took place in June this year. GN rates Blue Star 1 as one of the world`s best ropax ferries in terms of speed, luxury and freight handling capacity.
The Greek company`s director, Gerasimos Strintzis, said he was “very satisfied with the quality of the construction of Blue Star 1” and quite sure that through the acquisition of the two vessels, the firm`s marketshare would rise significantly.
“I am quite confident that when Greece joins the European economic and monetary union, traffic will increase further due to the use of the euro,” he said.
Strintzis said this was a pioneering line for the company – in which Attica Enterprises recently bought a controlling interest of 40.22% – as it would involve connecting two Italian ports and allow it to carry out domestic routes between them. The Patras-Brindisi route will take nine hours while the Patras-Ancona (via Brindisi) route will be completed in 21 hours.
“Turkey`s status as an EU candidate country will facilitate commercial traffic to our neighbouring country and we believe that our group will acquire the largest share of this market,” he said.
“We are focusing our development on the building of new ferries as it remains the most popular mode of both passenger and goods transport while our goal is to introduce more new vessels on domestic routes in Greece.
“We aim to upgrade passenger safety, lessen the length of the journey, be consistent in departure and arrival times and improve service at ports. With the application of our investment programme, we are completing a very important phase as a ferry company that began in 1960 by operating a small ferry between Patras and Kefalonia.” Strintzis noted that the firm was constructing four new ships to serve domestic routes.
Netelenbos stressed that the launch symbolised the cooperation between Greece and the Netherlands while Greece`s Merchant Marine Minister Stavros Soumakis, also present at the event, singled it out as a “very special day for Greek shipping”.
“This is what we expect to have as a Greek fleet,” Soumakis commented, saying that efforts were being undertaken to renovate the country`s conveyances.
“Through these orders, I believe we will continue to remain at the top in shipping internationally into the next millennium.”
Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.