Words by Dave McMillan, former CEO of Vard Marine Inc. (1989-2020)
In 1995, the company was awarded a contract by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) Maritech fund to further develop the concept of a high-speed slender monohull that could be used in both trans-ocean and short sea shipping routes. The concept design was to be a 1500 TEU container ship slender monohull that reached a service speed of 30-35 knots for Trans-Atlantic service. The project was based on extensive research work carried out by Kvaerner Masa-Yards in Finland within the "EuroExpress" development project. Other partners in the project included Bath Iron Works, GE and a US based ship operator.
The company conducted an extensive set of model tests at Marintek in Trondheim, Norway to confirm the vessel’s speed and operability in a wide range of ocean conditions. The testing included measuring seakeeping loads with a hydroelastic model in oblique seas to ensure that the vessel had optimal structural strength and fatigue life.
The ultimate goal of the project was to develop an optimized design that could achieve a consistently high transit speed and high operability in the particular sea states specifically aimed at the movement of time sensitive goods across the Atlantic. All of this while achieving a competitive RFR (Required Freight Rate).
For the Short Sea Shipping (SSS) variants, the overall philosophy was the same but the goal was to achieve an equal or better RFR compared to truck transportation on busy road corridors on the US East and West Coast. Over time, it became clear that the higher fuel consumption of gas turbines compared to medium speed diesel engines was a critical design driver; therefore, the maximum power available in medium speed engines dictated the operational speed for the RFR calculation. Several designs were developed based on 24 or 48 hour voyages – i.e. 600nm or 1200nm between ports and proved that SSS transportation was more than competitive to truck transport where traffic delays and other matters increased land RFRs.