Yesterday was a special day for Symi. Firstly, it was the 73rd anniversary of the surrender of German forces in the Dodecanese in 1945, signed on Symi, celebrated by a parade of local schoolchildren, organisations, and the local army garrison. Secondly, the extension of Yialos harbour into the district of Petalo beyond the petrol station was officially opened, after two years work.
This year the parade was graced by the presence of the President of Greece, resulting in a larger than usual turnout of senior military and police personnel, and he went on to perform the opening ceremony for the harbour works.
A special visit had been arranged of the Superfast XII, the largest ferry operating in the Dodecanese area, to demonstrate how the extension can cope with far larger vessels than the traditional “big ferry” berth at the Clock Tower. As a guide, Superfast XII is 200 metres long. The Blue Star Patmos, the regular twice weekly visitor to the clock tower berth, is 146 metres long and almost blocks the mouth of the traditional harbour.
I’ve been asked whether all ferries will relocate to the new extension, and I think the answer is no. The main purposes of the work are: to attract more long-distance ferry calls by making Symi accessible to every size of ferry in Greece; to remove the traffic chaos from the narrow roads surrounding the existing harbour; and to attract calls from more cruise ships. The extension has plenty of room for side-loading cruise ships to moor, but only one ramped area that vehicle-carrying ferries could use.
At the moment, the north (Mavrovouni) side of the harbour becomes one way every Wednesday and Friday morning and evening, because the volume of traffic loading and unloading from the Blue Star Patmos makes two way traffic impossible. There isn’t enough roadway to properly marshal vehicles waiting to board. But this isn’t a problem with the Dodekanisos Express and Pride, which carry mainly people and a very few cars and bikes. The Symi and the Panagia Skiadeni again carry lots of people but also cars and trucks and remain in port for several hours so there is no conflict between vehicles disembarking and boarding.
So I’d expect the Blue Star Patmos to move to Petalo, plus a third Blue Star a week (either the Blue Star 2 or the Superfast XII which belongs to the same group), and everything else to stay put.
Another question is “how will articulated lorries turn left out of the port extension to go up the hill”? Here I think the answer is that they won’t. At the moment the Patmos carries several artic trailers to and from Symi on each trip. These are dragged on and off by a Symi-based tractor unit, parked on the quayside, and taken one by one round the harbour to the big bend above the new extension. Here they are parked on the roadside and unloaded before being returned on the next ferry. The idea now is that trailers will be parked and unloaded by forklift in the extension area with the goods being distributed on smaller trucks as today. Artics rarely venture beyond the big bend anyway because some of the corners, and the junction with the Pedi road, are too tight for longer trailers.
The final question is “when does it really open”? Here I just don’t know. Really a ticket hut, basic shelter for foot passengers, and a means of getting foot passengers to the main part of Yialos are still missing. Watch this space!