Streamlined, elegant, speedy ... cargo ships

A freighter that will halve transatlantic crossing times is being built by a British inventor, writes Hilary Clarke

The final touches are being made in America to a $1bn (pounds 621m) deal to finance the world's fastest ever cargo ship and fulfil a lifelong dream of a British engineer.

David Giles, 63, who started his career designing aeroplanes, first hatched the idea to build the super-fast ship, which does not slow up in bad weather, more than 20 years ago. His ambition has almost reached fruition and the ship is expected to deliver its first cargo in 2002.

"This ship will do as much for the movement of goods in the global market as the jet airliner did for the movement of people," Mr Giles said. The losers are likely to be the air-freight companies and the established shipping lines.

The US Maritime Administration is funding the bulk of the project to the tune of $875m. Investment bank JP Morgan is assembling a consortium of private investors and the total finance of more than $1bn is expected to be completed before the end of the year.

Rolls Royce is currently bidding with General Electric for the contract to build the engines and a decision is expected soon. With plans afoot eventually to extend the service to about 40 ships with services also crossing the Pacific and connecting ports in Asia, the FastShip could prove lucrative for whoever wins the contract. The initial fleet of four vessels will be built at a shipyard in San Diego, California.

Developed by the Philadelphia-based FastShip, which Mr Giles founded, the FastShip will be able to cross the Atlantic in 93 hours compared with the current average of 160 hours. Two ports - one in Cherbourg, France and one in Philadelphia - are being developed to unload the cargo on to lorries and trains in six hours compared with the current average of 48 hours. The builders say the ship will cut the cost of transporting a ton of goods from Europe to America from $3,300 to $400.

Although cargo would take a couple of days longer to reach its final destination with the FastShip than if it had travelled by air, there would be few restrictions on the size and the density of the cargo, Mr Giles said. The company is also planning to cash in on the growing transatlantic trade in high-value goods being generated by e-commerce and is developing a system to link the ships directly to distributors and warehouses.

"We are not trying to be all things to all people. We are concentrating on high-value, time-sensitive goods like automo- biles, computers and specialist chemicals," said FastShip president Roland Bullard. The FastShip will also be attractive to exporters of perishable foods like orange juice and mangoes.

Mr Giles, whose father was a yacht designer on the Solent, first hatched the idea for the FastShip in 1975 and has been working on the project since 1988. He patented the design in the US in 1989.

"We didn't just go to the shipping lines, because they are very conservative and have billions of dollars invested in the present container ship market. So we decided we had to do the whole thing ourselves," he said.

He rallied all his own funds together to invest in the project, re-mortgaging and then later selling his house to muster $1.5m to enable him to set up in the US. In 1991, Mr Giles had the good fortune to meet a Swedish man named Rune Svensson, now retired, but who was then the president of Volvo Transport. "The more we spoke the more we saw the potential," said Mr Giles. But he still needed a lot more funding to launch his dream ship. "We weren't just thinking of designing a boat but setting up a whole new transportation industry."

A meeting with the Philadelphian authorities turned out to be the answer to Mr Giles's prayers. Trade into the port of Philadelphia, once one of the busiest on the East Coast, had virtually dried up since the advent of container ships in the 1950s and 1960s. The trade unions there had refused to co-operate with the new regime. In February 1994, with Mr Svensson at his side, Mr Giles met the local mayor, Ed Randell, officials from the Delaware Port Authority, and the head of the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp, Vince Fumo.

"He said: `how much do you want, $10 million? You've got it'. That wouldn't have happened in England," Mr Giles said.

In the event, Delaware Port Authority coughed up $7m and a local shipping entrepreneur, Tom Holt, who had brokered a deal with the unions on containers, threw in $3m.

"The whole deal was done within four months," said Mr Giles. The money was start-up capital for technical development and market research.

The basic design of the vessel is being carried out by Osprey UK, based in Emsworth, Hampshire. The structural design is being undertaken by the Copenhagen-based company Ship Tech. The French harbour authorities are providing the necessary investment to equip the Cherbourg port for the FastShip.

Meanwhile, Mr Giles is happy to leave the running of the company to Mr Bullard. "The crazy inventor can't be expected do everything himself," he said.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
people
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Techincal Accountant-Insurance-Bank-£550/day

£475 - £550 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Technical Accountant-Insuran...

Sales Performance Manager, Gloucester - £290 p/day

£200 - £290 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Sales Performance Manager, Key Ba...

Junior Database developer (SQL, T-SQL, Excel, SSRS, Crystal rep

£25000 - £30000 per annum + bonus+benefits+package: Harrington Starr: Junior D...

Java/Calypso Developer

£600 - £800 per day: Harrington Starr: Java/Calypso Developer Java, Calypso, ...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment