Greece and Turkey inaugurate direct shipping line (Izmir – Thessaloniki) despite strained relations
The “Smyrna di Levante” ferry, which can carry 900 people and 300 vehicles, will run three times a week between Thessaloniki and Izmir.
The event occurred in the midst of renewed tensions between the two countries. “The Friendship Line”, linking Thessaloniki in northern Greece to Izmir in Turkey, was inaugurated on Monday. This is the first direct maritime line linking mainland Greece with its neighbour.
Until now, only certain Greek islands in the eastern Aegean had connections, by small boats, with the nearest Turkish ports.
Three connections per week
The Smyrna di Levante ferry from the Greek company Levante Ferries left Thessaloniki to reach the great Turkish metropolis in 14 hours. The ship can carry 900 people and 300 vehicles, according to the company, which worked on this project for three years.
This first test trip took place with 35 passengers on board, mostly company executives. The ship will make the connection three times a week. The objective is to facilitate trade and tourism between the two countries, the sea route being shorter than that by road.
Greece – Turkey : Strained relationships
Both members of NATO and linked by centuries of common history, Greece and Turkey have tense relations, particularly regarding the delimitation of waters in the eastern Mediterranean. The two countries also blame each other for the repeated shipwrecks of migrant boats seeking to enter the European Union.
Tension escalated further at an informal European summit in Prague on Thursday. Indeed, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis left the official dinner during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s speech.