M/V KOLOKOTRONIS – A war reparation vessel

Advertising Pamphlet of the KOLOKOTRONIS (c. winter 1952-53). Credits: Bjorn Larsson Collection. Uploaded in timetable images. See also the introduction page, please.

It was around the late 1950s, when numerous youngsters in Europe danced wildly to rock ’n’ roll and fell in love with blue jeans. At that point, cliques of young people from Northern Europe also started travelling to Mediterranean coasts informally: parents were not usually welcome in such excursions. Those youngsters would not rush to Thomas Cook to buy a ticket: they preferred hitchhiking and, from 1972 on, Interrail. Travelling by ship was also a hobby horse of theirs: it was not atypical for them to travel from Italian to Greek ports. Simultaneously, people from Southern Europe increasingly migrated to the North. Numerous Greeks moved to Belgium and West Germany to get a job in the booming industry there. The two most common itineraries they followed were either by train from Greece to West Germany or by ship to Italy and then further to the North. While crossing the Adriatic Sea, migrants from the South and young tourists from the North met in ports and ships, such as in KOLOKOTRONIS.

By the end of the WWII the vast majority of Greece’s coastal fleet had been lost. Part of the war reparations to Greece, 4 + 2 Cargo/Passenger vessels were built in Italian shipyards during the early 1950s for Greek interests. The four sister ships were named after revolutionists of the Greek War of Independence and played a crucial role in the coastal shipping for more than three decades. They served numerous routes in the Aegean and Adriatic Sea. While the MIAOULIS, the KANARIS and the KARAISKAKIS were delivered to “Petros M. Nomikos Ltd” at Piraeus, the KOLOKOTRONIS was delivered to “The New Epirotiki Steamship Navigation – Petros Potamianos” at Piraeus. She was the only of the four sister ships in a dark livery while up to 1971 when she was sold two names were written at her bow: GEORGIOS POTAMIANOS and KOLOKOTRONIS. She sailed the Adriatic, the Aegean Sea while in 1967 she approached the ports of Limassol and Haifa. During her second period of her life the Italian built vessel sailed under the name ACHILEUS until 1984 when she was scrapped in Eleusis area. A few months later, her sister ship KANARIS was scrapped. Four years after MIAOULIS followed the fate of her sisters and she was scrapped in Pakistan. KARAISKAKIS enjoyed a long career. Converted to a cruise ship in 1971 she changed many ship owners and names until she was finally scrapped in early 2000s in India. The name of the four sister ships is still recalled in the islands of the Aegean, bringing up memories from the maritime journey of the first post-war decades.

Hint for ship enthusiasts: Seven minutes of 1959 footage from the exterior and interior of the long lived sister ship KARAISKAKIS, scenes from the movie “Gamílio Taxídi” can be found here thanks to the efforts of the You Tube user cptdx.

Salty Deck Question: Have you ever sailed on one of the Italian sister ships? Don’t hesitate to share your memories by responding to this post or by submitting a story.



2 thoughts on “M/V KOLOKOTRONIS – A war reparation vessel”

  1. Comment sent to us by our reader, Ian Bersten, passenger of the Kolokotronis (1961)

    S/S Kolokotronis fourth of June 1961

    I bought a ticket to Brindisi but I was robbed again – no student discount given and she gave me a tourist class ticket although she said she was giving me a second class ticket. This is the fourth time a Greek shipping line has diddled me and I will watch them carefully in the future. In this case I did not have enough time. I got to the boat with five minutes to spare. Fortunately I’m not traveling deck class on this boat because it is worse than anything I’ve seen and this must include Turkish boats which I haven’t seen. The Turkish boats are supposed to be much worse. There are 550 Greek migrants traveling on the deck to Brindisi to work in Germany. The place is packed as I’ve never seen before. I74 sleeping on top in an area less than the size of a tennis court and the rest are in the bow, in an area under cover 50’ x 40’ and another 40’ x 30’ and sleeping in the passageways in deckchairs all the way around the boat. The usual luggage is on board and I am told that 30 minutes before leaving two chaps arrived with a wardrobe and pushed their way through the crowd – such nonchalance would have to be seen. The crush on board is best described by saying that it resembles a large liner with the visitors still aboard. Most are eating bread plus and the ship gives them a plate of rice with tomato sauce for lunch and a plate of beans for tea. There are two toilets for the whole mob and one tap – anybody in a big hurry would take five minutes to thread their way from one end of the boat to the other.


  2. Comment sent to us by our reader Panagiotis Vagias, crew member of the Kolokotronis (1965 – 1966)

    I worked on this ship. Between 1965 – 1966, Kolokotronis delivered immigrants from Greece to Italy. Afterwards, the immigrants took the train to Germany. Too much worrying for me to see people crying, screaming. I remember one beautiful girl from Rhodes. She gave me one notebook as a souvenir. I still have this book today. It was not easy to see these people like that. It was always breaking my heart since I’m from a poor family too. I also have good memories from this ship.

    Thank you very much

    Panagiotis Vagias


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