The Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers has established a panel of experts to examine power plants for the next classes of large, high-speed, ocean-going ships, those that will follow the first of this new type, which will begin construction at the NASSCO shipyard in San Diego later this year for Philadelphia-based ship owner, FastShip Atlantic. These ships will have higher speed (over 40 knots) and more installed power (325,000 hp) than the largest aircraft carriers or even the most powerful merchant ship ever built previously, the SS United States.
The experts consider that this is only the beginning: as these new ships prove themselves in transatlantic service, projections are that ship owners will be drawn to Pacific Ocean trade routes, requiring larger ships with even higher speeds and power levels.
Million-horsepower ships could be on the CAD screens of ship designers by the end of the decade. The ships now building will use gas-turbine engines similar to the jet engines of the largest airliners, and with five engines in each ship, running on diesel fuel, the Society is concerned about the environmental impact of these ships. Alternatives to be studied include fuel cells and inherently safe nuclear plants. Criteria to be considered in addition to low environmental impact include the technical and economic feasibility, safety, and social and political acceptability.
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