The maiden voyage was set from Thessaloniki to İzmir with “Smyrna di Levante,” a vessel that is 160 meters in length and 23 meters in width and is owned by the Greek-based shipping company, Levante Ferries.
The ferry, with a capacity of 300 vehicles and 948 passengers, departed from the Greek port on Oct. 10 at 5 p.m. and docked at İzmir port on Oct. 11 at 8 a.m.
A total of 119 passengers, five vehicles, two lorries and a motorcycle were on the ferry.
The ferry will return to Thessaloniki at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
The voyages between the two countries are expected to take 13 hours, while the ticket prices start from 81 Euros per person, with a 10 percent discount for return tickets.
Thessaloniki Port’s authorities set up facilities for required controls, as passengers and goods will need to go through customs control as Türkiye is not part of the Schengen zone.
With the voyages that bring the two sides of the Aegean together, it is aimed to gain profit in the fields of mutual trade and tourism.
Speaking at the ceremony held for the first voyage, Yusuf Karakaş, an official from the Trade Ministry, pointed out the importance of the line for the two countries.
“Considering that three trips per week will be made mutually, there will be vehicle traffic of over 93,000 and over 140,000 passengers a year. As there is an annual passage of over 400,000 at the western border crossing, even a single Ro-Ro expedition becomes a vital element,” Karakaş said.
“Our goal is to be able to advance every dimension of trade at the highest level and reach the whole world,” he added.
Underlining that the new service will create new opportunities in tourism and trade, Despoina Balkiza, Greece’s consul general in İzmir said the route, which is an alternative to the highway, will facilitate passenger and goods transportation.
Shipping companies and business representatives can use the service to gain access not only to Greek but also to western European markets, Balkiza stressed.
“I went to Greece for touristic purposes. Thessaloniki, where Atatürk’s house is also located, is an amazing city. It was a long journey by road, I preferred the sea route on the way back,” said Mehmet Berberoğlu, one of the passengers of the first voyage.
The captain of the ferry, Christos Moraitis, stated that the journey went very well. “We expect our Turkish and Greek passengers to use the new services.”
The project had been on the table since 2011. The company declared earlier that the Greek island of Lesbos would also be added to the ferry route.
The local Greek media estimated that with the start of the ferry services, new tourism packages would be presented to tourists from both countries.
Hurriyet Daily News