P&O Ferries operated Spirit of France - the second of two giant new ferries for the Dover-Calais service - took to the water for the first time over the weekend.
The vessel was floated out of her construction dock at the STX Europe shipyard in Rauma, Finland.
Senior company officials including chief executive Helen Deeble and the new ship’s senior master Captain Steve Johnson were on the quayside in sub-zero temperatures to witness the flooding of the dry dock.
Over the next six months Spirit of France will be fitted out and is then due to be delivered in September when she will join her identical twin Spirit of Britain, already in service on the English Channel.
“With capacity for up to 2,000 passengers, and three separate vehicle decks capable of carrying nearly four kilometres of traffic parked end to end, these huge ships open a new era in cross-Channel travel,” said Ms Deeble.
“Their revolutionary design, with a unique hull form that reduces drag in shallow Channel waters and enhances fuel economy, means P&O Ferries can carry twice the payload of today’s ferries for the same running costs.”
Motorists access the ships’ restaurants, bars, lounges and shopping via their own private car deck which has special lanes for those selecting priority loading.
Freight drivers have exclusive facilities including showers, DVD seat back entertainment and a large restaurant.
P&O Ferries was recognised as the World’s Leading Ferry Operator by the World Travel Awards in 2010.