Ailing Greek ferry relic finally given the heave-ho onto Turkish ship recylcers

Anen Maritime Co of Greece has sold a derelict old ferry it bought at auction in January for recycling in Turkey.

The 10,700-gt ropax Taxiarchis (built 1975) arrived off the beach at Aliaga on Monday, towed there from Piraeus by a tug.

The last time the Norwegian-built vessel moved under its own power was nearly a decade ago while it was operating in Greek domestic service for Nel Lines.

The ship was seized in 2015 following the ferry operator’s collapse. The majority of the company’s fleet had been seized by creditors during the preceding year.

As is often the case with Greek ferry company bankruptcies, Nel’s ships were caught in a bureaucratic quagmire caused by creditor claims being dealt with through multiple courts.

The Taxiarchis and its former fleet mates were left to rot in the vicinity of Piraeus for many years before the Piraeus Port Authority (PPA) stepped in and finally auctioned them off.

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Anen, once a ferry operator itself, bought several former Nel vessels and promptly resold them for recycling in Turkey.

The PPA tried several times to auction the Taxiarchis, but any trading buyers were immediately put off by tender documents describing the ship as unsafe and dangerous.

In recent years the Taxiarchis was laid up at a shipyard on the island of Salamina, where it slowly took on a list that left it leaning against the half-sunken 5,700-gt ropax Panagia Agiasou (built 1973), a former Saos Ferries ship that has been out of service since 2008.

Next on the chopping block: The 1973-built ropax Panagia Agiasou last operated for Saos Ferries in in 2008. Photo: Jonathan Boonzaier

According to Greek ferry sources, the Panagia Agiasou was recently refloated in preparation for a possible sale to Turkey for recycling.

Turkish recyclers, who cannot compete on price with their South Asian peers, focus on EU-flagged vessels that require recycling at EU-certified ship recycling facilities. There are close to 10 such recycling facilities at Aliaga.

Other acquisition candidates are ships trading in the Mediterranean that are too small to justify the cost of sending them to India, Bangladesh or Pakistan.

The Greek ferry market has provided Aliaga with a steady supply of tonnage for many decades.

This year Turkish recyclers have been badly hit by cheap Russian steel imports that flooded the Turkish steel market, leading to reduced demand for recycled steel and sending prices plummeting.

The Russian government will impose a 7% tax on steel exports beginning on 1 October, although cash buyer Wirana Shipping Corp noted in its latest market report that Russian exporters may not pass the entire extra cost on to Turkish importers.

To add to the woes facing the Turkish ship recycling sector, the Turkish Lira came under pressure last week following the announcement of a 5% interest rate hike to 30%. Inflation in the country is also running close to 60%.

The Turkish market is offering from $310 per ldt for dry tonnage to $330 per ldt for container ships, according to Wirana, which expects prices offered by Aliaga’s ship recyclers to continue at the same levels for the foreseeable future.

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