FerriesPast and PresentSealinkSociété Nationale des Chemins de fer Français (SNCF)

MV Saint Germain – Past and Present

MV Saint Germain

Bernt Anderson Collection

Saint Germain – Courtesy of Bernt Anderson Collection

Steel twin screw motor vessel, built and engined by Helsingør Skibsværft og Maskinbyggeri A/S Helsingor, Denmark, (Yard No 303), for the Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français (SNCF) in 1951

Technical Data

  • Length on Deck: 115.73m (379.7 ft) (overall)
  • Breadth of Hull: 18.47m (60.6 ft) (extreme)
  • Depth: 20.3 ft
  • Draught: 4.12m (13.5 ft)
  • Tonnage: 3,094 gross (1951), 3,492 (from 1976), 846 net (1951), 1,276 (from 1976), 1,299 deadweight (1951), 1,331 (from 1976)
  • Engines: Two 9-cylinder Helsingor Skibs. & Msk. Two-stroke single-acting diesels
  • Power: 4,490 kW
  • Speed: 16.5 knots (service), 18 knots (max)
  • Capacity: 850 passengers (1951), 1,000 (1976 – 1985), 36 sleeping cars and 2 luggage wagons, or 36 goods wagons, or 135 cars on train deck, 25 in garage.
  • Call Sign: FNXF
  • Registry: Dunkerque
  • IMO Number: 5305895


April 5th 1951: Launched

  Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

July 1951: Delivered to Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français (SNCF).

July 24th 1951: Arrived Dunkerque from Helsingör.

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

July 26th 1951: Maiden Voyage to Dover from Dunkerque.

July 28th 1951: Commenced service as a train-ferry between Dunkerque – Dover.

Stéphane Poulain Collection  Stéphane Poulain Collection

Stéphane Poulain Collection  Stéphane Poulain Collection

Arriving at Dunkerque from her builders 24/07/1951, Stéphane Poulain Collection

December 11th 1951: Damaged at the stern when she collided with the Prince of Wales Pier in dense fog and as a consequence she was unable to load her “Night Ferry” sleeping cars.

Roy Thornton Collection  Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection  Courtesy of Michael Woodland

Roy Thornton Collection (as noted) and Courtesy of Michael Woodland (as noted)

September 6th 1953: Outbound from Dunkerque collided with ST JEAN. Continued to Dover with two of her lifeboats smashed.

May 30th 1958 – July 8th 1958: Operated between Calais – Dover

1959: Whilst operating between Dunkerque – Dover, also made the occasional trip, as cover, between Dover (Eastern Docks) – Calais

  Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

Nigel Thornton Collection  Nigel Thornton Collection

Courtesy of Terry Conybeare

August 1962 – September 1962: Chartered to Townsend Car Ferries, Dover, England for service between Dover – Calais.

© A G Jones

© A G Jones (July 1966)

February 6th 1967: Struck the lock gates at Dunkerque, causing considerable amount of damage.

October 2nd 1967 – October 31st 1967: “British Rail operated a service between Dunkerque – Harwich. The SAINT GERMAIN was briefly called in to assist at the end of the month….”.

November 1969: It was announced that British Rail’s Shipping and International Services Division (SISD) had adopted the new brand name Sealink and as a consequence all vessels were painted in the new house colours. Her funnel was painted red and her hull blue.

© David Ingham

© David Ingham

Roy Thornton Collection  © Ted Ingham

Roy Thornton Collection (left) and © Ted Ingham (right)

1975 – 1976 (Winter): Overhauled , re-entering service at the end of January 1976. Her passenger accommodation was increased to 1,000 (achieved by the fitting of a new 150 seater lounge on top of her after garage) and she had the word “Sealink“ painted on her hull, something which the rest of the British and French boats had done two to three years before.

© Ted Ingham

© Ted Ingham

July 5th 1976: First vessel to depart from the new Dunkirk West ferry berth.

© Fotoflite, Stéphane Poulain Collection

© Fotoflite, Stéphane Poulain Collection

Courtesy of Bent Anderson Collection

Courtesy of Bernt Anderson Collection

February 21st 1979: Involved in a fatal collision with the Liberian bulk carrier ARTARDI off Calais. Two people were killed, four injured and the Channel ferry extensively damaged. Following her serious collision she returned to service though at a reduced speed to allow some machinery to “bed in”.

© Fotoflite, Stéphane Poulain Collection  © Brian Fisher

© Fotoflite, Stéphane Poulain Collection (left) and © Brian Fisher (right)

February 20th 1985: Continued in service as a freight only ferry.

© Kevin Hoggett

© Kevin Hoggett

March 10th 1985: Lost part of a screw and went off service.

March 22nd 1985: Returned to service after repairs.

© Ken Larwood   © Ken Larwood

© Ken Larwood

Onboard Saint Germain

Courtesy of Jim Ashby   Courtesy of Jim Ashby

Courtesy of Jim Ashby  Courtesy of Jim Ashby

Courtesy of Jim Ashby  Courtesy of Jim Ashby

Courtesy of Jim Ashby  Courtesy of Jim Ashby

Courtesy of Jim Ashby  Courtesy of Jim Ashby

Courtesy of Jim Ashby  Courtesy of Jim Ashby

Courtesy of Jim Ashby  Courtesy of Jim Ashby

Courtesy of Jim Ashby  Courtesy of Jim Ashby

Courtesy of Jim Ashby  Courtesy of Jim Ashby

Courtesy of Jim Ashby  Courtesy of Jim Ashby

Courtesy of Jim Ashby  Courtesy of Jim Ashby

Roy Thornton Collection

Courtesy of Jim Ashby (as noted) and the Roy Thornton Collection (as noted)

© Ted Ingham

© Ted Ingham

1985: Acted as relief vessel Harwich – Dunkerque

© Simonwp

© Simonwp (01/04/1985 @ Felixstowe)

July 8th 1987: “Swinging” at Dover, hit Admiralty Pier: Suffered heavy damage to her bow.

© Mike Sartin  © Mike Sartin

© Mike Sartin

Courtesy of Kim Bridgland

Courtesy of Kim Bridgland

May 8th 1988: Carried her final-trains.

May 16th 1988: Final day in service.

© Mike Sartin  © Mike Sartin

© Mike Sartin  © Mike Sartin

© Mike Sartin (Dover, 16/05/1988)

July 21st 1988: Sold to Triton Ship Delivery, London. Renamed GERMAIN. Left Dover for Port Alang, India.

August 11th 1988: Arrived in India to be broken up by NCK Sun Exports, Port Alang.


Ship model @ Dunkirk Port Museum (© Julien Carpentier)

All information is believed to be correct and no responsibility is accepted for any errors or omissions found. All items included in this article are subject to © copyright. We would like to take this opportunity of thanking: Bernt Anderson, Kim Bridgland, Julien Carpentier, Brian Fisher, Kevin Hoggett, Ted Ingham, A G Jones, Ken Larwood, Simonwp, Stéphane Poulain, Mike Sartin, Michael Woodland and Andreas Wörteler for their assistance in producing this feature. A special thanks goes to Jim Ashby, Terry Conybeare and the World Ship Society (East Kent Branch).

Article © Nigel Thornton and Ray Goodfellow (Dover Ferry Photos Group)

Show More


  1. Merci pour cette documentation très riche,mon papa et d’autre membres de ma famille ont navigué dessus,moi même j’ai eu la chance de faire plusieurs traversées ,ce navire été exceptionnel ,je pense qu’il aurait du finir comme musée à Dunkerque merci encore.

    1. Salut Edouard,

      Je vous remercie pour vos aimables commentaires.

      Notre site historien M. Nigel Thornton fait un travail brillant de la recherche et de l’approvisionnement matériel photographique pour ces articles et c’est vraiment agréable pour nous de recevoir ces commentaires agréable.

      Je m’excuse pour mon mauvais français mais je ne suis pas très versé dans la langue et a dû utiliser Google.


      Ray Goodfellow
      Webmaster de http://www.doverferryphotos.com

  2. What memories I have of this fine vessel. As I have posted elsewhere, my mother separated from my father in 1971 to live (in Dunkerque) with a chef from this very ferry. Many stories to tell, if interested. My then girlfriend and I married in 1976 and went to live in Dunkerque where I worked in the shipping industry for nearly two years before returning to England.

      1. Je vous remercie beaucoup et je souhaite que je pourrais prendre le crédit mais je tricher et utiliser Google Translate. Je l’ai étude française à l’école mais c’était il ya très longtemps.

    1. Hi Eric,

      My own personal memories of this great vessel are rather clouded due to be very young at the time. I do recall her departing the Western docks train ferry berth whilst watching the hovercraft as a small child and I wish that I had gotten the opportunity to travel on her but alas I didn’t get to sea until 1987 and with my step father being an officer with Townsend Thoresen/P&O we never travelled with the competition.

      Best Wishes

  3. I was the guy who sells that old ship. therefore, as chief radio officer on board of selaink ferries, I met a most of old radio Equipment which were not a Glory for safety!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Wow, never realised that this fine old ferry survived so long! Used to travel on her form Dover Dunkirk in the sixties, always remember being terrified at walking the gang plank from pier to ship with nowt but ropes for protection! Split Communal sleeping berths for male and female passengers, not a 100% sure of that though as I was the tender age of 6 or 7!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button
%d bloggers like this: