History Sol Lines
Sol Lines 1977 – 1987
In March 1977 Takis Solomonides established Sol Lines which acquired F/B Aeolis and renamed it "Sol Phryne" after his daughter Phryne. A new era for shipowning and trade had begun in Cyprus. Takis was a pioneer of national shipping in Cyprus and his company Sol Lines was always acting, throughout its existence, as the national carrier of Cyprus serving the commercial interests of his country without ever enjoying any preferential treatment, subsidies or protection which would enable it to reduce the losses suffered during the off season or during the experimental operations which Sol Lines had to carry out in order to develop the passenger and ro-ro traffic to and from Cyprus.
In its effort to maintain a year-round link of Cyprus with Greece for the benefit of Cyprus commerce and industry, Sol Lines was losing money during its winter operations. On top of that during the busy summer months Sol Lines was facing competition from occasional/seasonal operators. Takis held the belief that the Cyprus government would soon realize the importance of introducing certain regulations that would support Cypriot ships' interests and protect them against unethical competition from ships operating only during the profit-making summer periods. At the same time with this impression in his mind Takis was gradually increasing his fleet with a view to offering a higher degree of frequency of sailings and extending his services to more diversified destinations.
Despite the adverse business environment and the luck of any government support or protection, Sol Lines, managed to continue trading for over than 10 consecutive years 1977 – 1988. It is unfortunate that Sol Lines ceased its operations only a few months before Takis' son Giorgos had completed his studies in Economics and Ship Finance in the U.K. as he could have helped Takis to save the company. Still Takis is proud that during its operation Sol Lines had made a huge contribution to the economy of Cyprus and to the island's international image as a maritime centre.
"ACQUISITION AND EMPLOYMENT OF SHIPS"
M/V "SOL PHRYNE"
In March 1977 the passenger/car ferry "Sol Phryne" was acquired and served the Cyprus-Greece line on a round-the-year basis for 10 consecutive years, i.e. until October 1986. During the first six years of operation, the ship, in compliance with the recommendation of the Government, was also calling regularly at the Syrian port of Lattakia in order to assist in the development of exports from Cyprus to the Arab countries by truck-trailers.
In view of the fact that no passenger movement out of Syria could be developed, it was considered advisable that Lattakia should be substituted by the Israeli port of Haifa. This Greece-Cyprus-Israel weekly service was maintained until October 1986.
Thereafter, the ship was employed exclusively on cruises from Cyprus to Haifa (Holyland). As all new things, it took some time for these cruises to become known and consequently the ship had lost money throughout the winter of 1986. However, during the summer of 1987 the cruises became reasonably productive. It was expected that during the winter of 1987 the "Sol Phryne" would manage to reach the break-even point but another superior ship started operating similar cruises and as a result Sol Lines had to interrupt this operation. After examination it was revealed that paradoxically the Cyprus Development Bank, one of the financiers of Sol Lines, financed the purchase of a cruise ship by another local company in order to compete with the Sol Phryne. Furthermore the bank had also acquired a 50% stake in this new company. Unethically the Cyprus Development Bank had used all the shipping knowledge and expertise acquired during its long collaboration with Sol Lines to finance and partner with a competitor thus when Sol Lines needed their support they refused to provide it in order to pave the way for their new partner as quickly as possible.
HYDROFOIL "KOMETA M"
In February 1978 a Russian Hydrofoil was purchased. It was a new building with a sitting capacity of 120 persons, a speed of 35 knots and fully air-conditioned. A 30% was paid and credit was allowed for the balance, subject to Russian crew being employed until settlement. The craft arrived in Cyprus in March '78 and test runs were carried out. At the time that Sol Lines was ready to commence its operations to Beirut, Port Said, etc., the war broke out in Lebanon and the port as well as the airport of Beirut were closed. Sol Lines saw this as a great opportunity since it could operate alone out of the small Christian port of Jounieh but unfortunately the Russian crew did not agree with the idea claiming that Jounieh was not an official port of Lebanon.
M/V "SOL GEORGIOS"
In view of the development of the trailer traffic to the Gulf Sol Lines acquired in September 1980 the Ro/Ro ship "Sol Georgios" in order to complement the "Sol Phryne" on the Greece-Cyprus-Syria weekly service. A few days later, the Iraq/Iran conflict had started, and the truck-trailer traffic via Syria became negligible to the extent of rendering the operation financially not feasible. The ship was subsequently employed in occasional voyage charters and eventually she was given back to her previous owners after appropriate arrangements with the mortgagee bank.
T.S.S. "SOL EXPRESS"
This steamship was bought towards the end of 1981 and was employed for some time in the Greece-Cyprus-Israel service. Complying with the recommendation of the agents of Sol Lines in Israel it was decided to extend this service up to Brindisi since there was no other ship to link Israel with Italy. Soon after the announcement of this express weekly service another two ships were put on the same service by the Greek competitors of Sol Lines. As a result all three ships were running at a loss and were eventually compelled to abandon the line. The ship was then employed for some time in the Larnaca/Jounieh daily service and eventually Sol Lines gave it away because of a boiler-damage beyond its insured value.
M/V "SOL OLYMPIA" ex "VIKING VI"
Early in 1983 Sol Lines acquired this remarkable ship and it was put in service to a wonderful cruise-like itinerary from Haifa up to Venice with several intermediate ports of call. The vessel worked successfully even though it had to interrupt the service for a month due to a problem with the crankshaft of one of the main engines. During 1984, which was its second year of operation, and was expected to be more lucrative, the Greek authorities decided that the service involved an "International Voyage" and not a "Short International", this meaning that the carrying capacity of the vessel should be limited to 480 persons instead of 1220. This would have rendered the ship unprofitable on this line and after suitable arrangements the ship was sold back to her previous owners.
M/V "SOL OLYMPIA II" & M/V "SOL CHRISTIANA"
Early in 1985 these two Spanish ships of a capacity of 1200 persons each were spotted and Sol Lines purchased them in April and June of the same year respectively. Both of them were employed in the Israel-Cyprus-Greece service.
The first ship which was renamed "Sol Olympia II", after a few months in operation had started facing generator problems and Sol Lines decided to sell her to interested buyers. Whilst on dry-dock at Elefsis shipyard, two days before its delivery to the new buyers, the vessel became a total loss due to a fire caused by the yard during hull repairs. As a result Sol Lines had sustained a considerable financial damage, since for premium purposes she was under-insured in the case of a total loss.
The mortgagee bank was alarmed by the above misfortune of the "Sol Olympia II" and served the second ship "Sol Christiana" with a writ so she was stopped in November 1985 even though Sol Lines was not in default in any way as far as the payments to the bank were concerned. Eventually the bank had to lift the arrest and compensate Sol Lines with US$100,000. Nevertheless, Sol Lines decided it was advisable to sell the vessel and settle all accounts with the mortgagees.