The wake of Incat’s Francisco cruising at 57 knots outside Hobart, Tasmania.
Builders at Australia’s Incat shipyard say they’ve completed and tested the world’s fastest ship, which is powered by two aircraft engine-based GE gas turbines driving a pair of water jets. The 325-foot passenger and vehicle ferry is a “wave-piercing catamaran” that can travel as fast as 58.1 knots, or 67 miles per hour. “This is certainly the fastest ship in the world,” said Incat managing director Kim Clifford. “Of course there’s a few speed boats that could surpass 58 knots, but nothing that could carry 1,000 passengers and 150 cars, and with an enormous duty-free shop on board.”
The ferry, named Francisco after Pope Francis, will link the pontiff’s native city of Buenos Aires in Argentina with Montevideo, Uruguay, 140 miles away across the River Plate estuary.
Two GE gas turbines based on a Boeing 747 engine design drive a pair of water jets. The ferry can travel as fast as 58 knots, or 68 miles per hour. Credit: Eric Graudins
Speed is not the ship’s only distinction. The Francisco is the world’s first high-speed ferry that uses liquefied natural gas (LNG) as primary fuel. (It uses marine-grade oil only to start the engines, and as backup fuel.) An Incat announcement says that the ship is the “fastest, environmentally cleanest, and most efficient high-speed ferry in the world.”
LNG will power two GE aeroderivative gas turbines from the company’s ecomagination portfolio that have modified Boeing 747 aircraft engines at their core. Each of the turbines, which produce a combined 59,000 horse power, will turn a gearbox with a 7-to-1 reduction that drives an impeller generating a waterjet. “We had to redesign the fuel manifold and the fuel delivery system,” says Ivan Bach, program manager with GE Power and Water. “But we have of a lot of experience in the marine environment. We’ve accumulated millions of hours powering ships, oil and gas rigs, and other equipment.”
Incat’s Chairman Robert Clifford said Francisco could go even faster with less fuel aboard and that the ship, commissioned by the Argentine ferry operator Buquebus, could compete with air traffic on the River Plate route.