The yawning gap between high-cost air and low-cost sea freight is set to be bridged if the FastShip transportation system is all it claims. Advertising to sell capacity on its proposed service in the January issue of Airline Business, the company is planning a high-speed transatlantic link between the ports of Philadelphia in the USA and Cherbourg in France in just five days port to port. This timescale would enable New York to Paris delivery for full containers in just six days.
This, says FastShip, "will enable door-to-door delivery times comparable to standard airfreight at half the cost, aimed at the fast-growing international time-definite delivery/logistics segment of the market".
Roland Bullard, president and chief executive of FastShip, says: "Classification for the design of the vessels is in place and we are in the process of finalising the capital raise. The forward sale of capacity on the service is part of that. I expect there will be a multinational grouping of strategic and financial investors in place by the end of 2007. After that there will be 12-18 months of detailed design work with first operation some 12 months after that."
The company will operate the service with three high-speed "JetShip" vessels, each with 10,000 tonnes capacity, and anticipates a 98% on-time port arrival rate. It will also use specialised terminals to load and unload the ships and foresees a complete turnaround of the vessel "within six hours of port arrival", compared with up to 24 hours for traditional crane operations.
The vessels - the first of their type - will be built in a German shipyard by Oslo, Norway-based Aker Group.
The JetShip burns substantially less fuel per freight tonne than a Boeing 747 freighter, adds FastShip, " so the JetShip's cost advantages over air freight improve as fuel prices rise".
FastShip says it is planning to augment its initial North Atlantic route with services on other new trade routes such as the transpacific and intra-Asia.
Could this be a realistic alternative to costly intercontinental air freight?