FastShip Inc. signed a preliminary agreement with National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. to build the first four cargo vessels of a nine-ship fleet that FastShip says will make trans-Atlantic journeys in half the time that conventional ships do. The deal keeps FastShip on track for a 2003 target date to make its first high-speed runs between Philadelphia and Cherbourg, France.
The Philadelphia-based company's ships will use five modified jet aircraft engines powering water jets instead of the conventional propellers. A patented hull shape also helps speed up the journey.
FastShip will be powered by five gas turbines. Each turbine will drive one Kamewa water jet, delivering in total 250 megawatts, or 335,000 horsepower—roughly equivalent to the takeoff power of two 747s. This propulsion package will enable the 860-foot vessels, carrying a 10,000-ton payload, to make the passage from Philadelphia to Cherbourg in less than four days, and to attain speeds of up to 40 knots. The hull form, coupled with the propulsion package will enable the ship to maintain those speeds even under adverse weather conditions. Once in port, the ships will be loaded and unloaded in six hours using a rail-based roll-on roll-off system developed by TTS Technology in Norway.