|THE VORTIGERN STORY
PART THREE: FINAL YEARS 1999-2005
The complete 1985 Vortigern deckplan
On board Vortigern - general
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|In late 1999/early 2000, Hellas Ferries became the largest domestic Greek ferry company, acquiring a sequence of
smaller operators, whilst being essentially based on the Agapitos Express operations which had been a fast-growing,
fast-moving presence in the market since being founded in 1993.
The Milos Express was thus reunited with her former Folkestone fleet-mates Hengist (which became Express Artemis) and
Horsa (Express Penelope). The former Lindos Lines ship herself was also renamed, albeit simply by having her previous
name inverted as Express Milos.
Operations were not significantly altered initially and the ship continued for much of the time running out of Piraeus to
Milos. Change was on hand however, and after the sinking of the Express Samina in September 2000, Hellas Ferries lost
both credibility and direction. The hoped-for investment to replace what was an expensively-acquired but actually quite
aged fleet failed to materialise and a great contraction began - this affected Express Milos firstly in 2002 when she was
switched to cover operations on routes out as far as Samos before being sold out of the fleet (at reportedly little more than
scrap value) prior to the Summer 2003 season. Although the ship was in good mechanical and internal condition, the low
price reflected her limited ongoing potential for Greek use. The strict and arbritary 35-year restriction on Greek domestic
ferries, which makes age rather than fitness and quality of maintenance the key criteria for ongoing service, had gradually
crept up on a ship by then 34 years of age and with just two seasons left before the axe fell.
The ship's new owners were a company called Saos Ferries who, although having been in existence for more than a
hundred years and operating ferries for more than thirty, were a relatively unknown quantity before being acquired by
Greek businessman Fotis Manoussis in 1999. Benefitting from the Greek government's subsidies for marginal but vital
routes, the company had seen rapid recent expansion and the Express Milos (renamed Nisos Limnos) was an astute buy
to run a tortuous and lengthy run from Lavrion (fairly close to Athens) to the northern Aegean. Although the ship's
schedule varied, a typical run would see her leave Lavrion for the northern Cyclades islands of Syros, Tinos and Mykonos
before heading west to Chios and then north to Mytilini, Limnos (the island from which the ship took her new name) and
Samothraki before finally arriving at Alexandropolis near the Turkish border over 24 hours afer first setting out.
Thus the ship spent two Indian Summers before finally being caught by the 35-year rule at the end of the 2004 season.
Saos expressed disappointment at being forced to retire their largest ship when she remained in fine mechanical
condition, but having acquired her for a bargain price the complaints can only have been half-hearted. Replacement for
2005 came in the form of the former Barlovento from Lineas Fred. Olsen (originally Townsend Thoresen's Viking Voyager)
and for the Vortigern the game was truly up. Suggestions that Turkish operators were interested in a purchase or that
Saos may utilise her in a freight-only capacity proved unfounded and in September 2004 her owners confirmed that the
Nisos Limnos had been sold for scrapping in India with delivery scheduled after the ship completed her final season in late
October. By December the ship was still lying in Lavrion, although she had been renamed Limon for the delivery voyage to
India. Prior to departure Saos removed some of the notable elements of the old Vortigern: she sailed without her original
bell or the Vortigern mural (latterly in the Distinguished Class lounge). Finally, the ship which had been one of Britain's
most significant car ferries, and which had gone on to become one of Greece's most popular and famous, arrived on the
beach at Alang in January 2005. Demolition was completed within a few weeks.
|ABOVE & BELOW: Two shots of the Nisos Limnos leaving Syros during her final season - in the second picture
she is seen heeling to starboard as she exits the harbour entrance on her way to Lavrion.
|ABOVE & BELOW: Renamed Limon, the former Vortigern is seen at Lavrion on 6 December 2004 looking tired
and ready for the final journey. Photograph courtesy Nikos Thrylos.
|BELOW: A final view from astern of the Limon. The ship has been registered in Kingstown for the delivery
voyage to the scrappers. Photograph courtesy Nikos Thrylos.