Ferry services between İzmir's Çeşme district and the Lavrion port in Athens began Sunday, marking a first in the deep-rooted history of both countries.
Even though there had been some occasional tensions between Turkey and Greece, both governments took the necessary political steps to provide a suitable infrastructure for ferry services.
The Athens-Çeşme ferry, undertaken by an İzmir-based company, will travel on a daily basis. In addition to passengers, heavy tonnage trucks will also be transported on the ferry. This new service will be vital to expanding the commercial and economic volume between the two countries.
The İzmir Çesme-Athens Lavrion ferry services had been a long-debated issue between the two countries. While most of the previous attempts had remained inconclusive, the process sped up with the initiatives of both President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The ferry services, first of which departed from Çeşme port at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, takes seven hours in total.
Ferry services will also benefit Turkish expats in Europe. Those coming to Turkey with their own vehicles will no longer have to wait on the long queues at the border gates. Costs will also be cut by half for companies that do business in Europe. Meanwhile, the company reduced its ticket prices by half for Sunday's first service with a special discount. Expected to boost regional tourism, this historic maritime route was launched on June 30 with a special ceremony at Çeşme Port. An Ottoman military band (mehter) concert and folk dances saw the ferry off on its first voyage. The vessels can carry 360 passengers, 500 cars and 90 trucks. They also have restaurants, cafes, children's playrooms, 70 cameras, free-shops and a sauna on board for the convenience of the passengers. Ticket prices, on the other hand, start at 55 euros ($62.64).