Sealink was a ferry company based in the United Kingdom from 1970 to 1984, operating services to France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Channel Islands, Isle of Wight and Ireland.
Sealink was originally the brand name for the ferry services of British Rail which ran shipping services in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Services to France, Belgium and the Netherlands were also run by Sealink UK as part of the Sealink consortium which also used ferries owned by French national railways (SNCF), the Belgian Maritime Transport Authority, Regie voor Maritiem Transport/Regie des transports maritimes (RMT/RTM) and the Dutch Stoomvaart Maatschappij Zeeland (SMZ).
Historically, the shipping services were exclusively an extension of the railways across the English Channel and the Irish Sea in order to provide through, integrated services to Europe and Ireland. As international travel became more popular in the late 1960s and before air travel became generally affordable, the responsibility for shipping services was taken away from the British Rail Regions and in 1969 centralised in a new division – British Rail Shipping and International Services Division.
With the advent of car ferry services the old passenger-only ferries were gradually replaced by roll-on-roll-off ships catering both for motorists and rail passengers as well as road freight. However, given that there was now competition in the form of other ferry companies offering crossings to motorists, it became necessary to market the services in a normal business fashion (as opposed to the previous almost monopolistic situation). Thus, with the other partners mentioned above, the brand name Sealink was introduced for the consortium.
As demand for international rail travel declined and the shipping business became almost exclusively dependent on passenger and freight vehicle traffic, the ferry business was incorporated as Sealink UK Limited in 1978, a wholly owned subsidiary of the British Railways Board (BRB).
On 27 July 1984 the UK Government sold Sealink UK Limited to Sea Containers. The company was renamed Sealink British Ferries.
In 1991, Sea Containers sold Sealink British Ferries to Stena Line. The Isle of Wight Services were excluded from the deal and were retained by Sea Containers operating as Wightlink.
The new owners rebranded the company name to Sealink Stena Line, then again a few years later to Stena Sealink Line.
In 1996, the Sealink name disappeared when the UK services were re-branded as Stena Line.
The pool agreement with the SNCF on the Dover to Calais route also ended at this time and the French run Sealink services were rebranded as SeaFrance.