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SeaFrance began operations between Dover and Calais in 1996 after the termination of a pooling agreement with Sealink (by then known as Stena Sealink Line) in 1995. The service initially began with the former Sealink vessels Fiesta and Côte d’Azur which became SeaFrance Cézanne and SeaFrance Renoir respectively after extensive refurbishments to create a distinctive French atmosphere on board.
Former Sealink train ferry Nord Pas-de-Calais became the MS Nord Pas-de-Calais and operated as a freight only ferry, though SeaFrance did market the ship to passengers as a quiet ship. The three vessels were later joined by the former Stena Londoner which became the SeaFrance Monet. SeaFrance quickly became the second busiest operator on the Dover-Calais route after P&O European Ferries and ahead of their former partners now known as Stena Line. In 1997 the SeaFrance Manet entered service after a five-year charter to Stena Line for the Newhaven—Dieppe service, the ship essentially replaced the Monet which was later sold, after being damaged in Calais.
SeaFrance took delivery of the SeaFrance Rodin in 2001, their first new ship and the fastest Dover—Calais ferry. She was joined in 2005 by the SeaFrance Berlioz, a sister ship built at a different yard.
SeaFrance Rodin (now MS Rodin) in the port of Calais, July 2008 SeaFrance was one of five companies invited to tender for the operation of the Transmanche Ferries service between Dieppe and Newhaven. The SNCF and later SNAT operated the route until 1992, when they withdrew after poor performance due to almost constant strike action.
The route later passed to Sealink Stena Line (later renamed Stena Sealink Line and finally Stena Line). The route became part of P&O Stena Line with the merger of the company’s Eastern Channel services and they operated the route until 1998, after which Hoverspeed operated a fast-ferry service on the route until 2004.
Because the French local government did not want the route to be lost, they started a subsidized line called Transmanche Ferries in April 2001. After five years of service and the arrival of two new-build ships, the government had to tender the line in a concession to comply with European Union regulations. The contract to operate the service was awarded to LD Lines on 21 December 2006.
In 2008, SeaFrance introduced the SeaFrance Molière, withdrew the SeaFrance Manet, and subsequently withdrew the SeaFrance Renoir.