In 2004, four FastShips will start sailing from Philadelphia to Cherbourg and back three times a week. They will carry electronics, clothes and perishables from the Midwest to central Europe in seven days. That's only one day longer than the air and road alternative, but a lot cheaper.
Moving freight across the Atlantic by ship today costs less than airlifting it, but the slow speed has made this uncompetitive. Unlike the new generation of slender high-speed passenger ferries, container ships have wide hulls for stability, restricting them to about 17 knots.
But the 860ft FastShip Atlantic cargo vessel, built by a Philadelphia company, is set to change that. Its low-drag hull design, colossal 250MW Rolls-Royce gas turbines and revolutionary propellers allow it to carry a 10,000-ton payload at 40 knots. The hull generates a second wave behind the usual bow wave, lessening the impact of heavy seas, enabling FastShip Atlantic to maintain high speeds even in bad weather.