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Investigating the Feasibility of Fast Sea Transport Services

  • Design
  • Economics


Each sea route is different and will demand a different solution to ensure customer acceptance, commercial viability, effective integration, and compliance with regulatory requirements. In seeking to investigate the feasibility of any fast ship route, a holistic appraisal must therefore encompass a range of disciplines including economics, ship design, integration, and regulation. Ultimately, the challenge for the designer, builder and operator is to ensure the entire system functions in such a way as to offer best prospects for sustainable competitive advantage. Economic analysis, including assessment of market demand, is a vital part of the overall equation, but this must be undertaken in unison with other analyses. Port selection and node related factors (ie integration) are critical in this regard, as the ports determine the route as well as provide an interchange. It is not necessarily the case that traditional ports used by conventional vessels on a given route are the same ports that should be used by successor fast craft. Indeed, this may in practice render the fast service uneconomic. New kinds of services may therefore require new routes to be developed, with new ports of call, and this needs new ways of thinking. The overall quality of an ‘interchange’ must also fully match the quality of the vessels employed, ensuring excellent integration, especially vis-à-vis turnaround time, through ticketing, and customer expectations. An absence of consensus in terms of ship design means there are many options to choose from and a key challenge for both operator and designer, in relation to the route and service in question, is to get the design right first time. This is best achieved through a detailed evaluation of alternative options, taking account of user needs, of competitive services, and operational and regulatory demands. Regulations continue to change as new situations arise and this poses added challenges. Vessel design and operation has to take account of and, where possible, anticipate changing regulations, while minimising the adverse impacts such changes may have over route economics. Maritime Economics & Logistics (2004) 6, 252–269. doi:10.1057/palgrave.mel.9100112

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