International Hydrofoil Society Special Report...

Advanced Marine Vehicle (AMV) Workshop Held In Washington DC on 4 June 1997

(Last Update 30 Aug 00)


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The Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME) Panels on Advanced Marine Vehicles and Maritime Economics, The International Hydrofoil Society, and The United States Hovercraft Society held a workshop Advanced Marine Vehicles (AMVs) For The United States Intermodal Transportation System on June 4, 1997 at the US Department of Transportation, Washington DC. There were 55 attendees. The objectives were to present the AMV state-of-the-art; to foster interest from shipbuilders, owners/operators, and investors in fast ferries; and to contribute to the creation of a national strategy for developing fast ferries as a component of the USA’s intermodal transportation system.

AMVs include fast monohulls, catamarans (including wave-piercer and SWATHS), hydrofoils, surface effect ships, and air cushion vehicles. Dramatic advances in design and performance in recent years, and steady increases in size, have greatly expanded their range of appropriate employment. AMVs have proven their dependability and safety — and their economic viability —as ferries in Europe and the Pacific Rim. US ferry operators and transportation planners have begun to consider AMVs, and a few operators are already acquiring them. The reauthorization process for ISTEA (Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act) this year, called NEXTEA, has focused additional attention on AMVs.

The agenda for the Workshop included:

 Summary of Discussions

The AMV video highlighted the growing problem of surface transportation in and around major US cities, many of which are near water. The US Navy’s AMV development successes exemplify the technological strides made during the 1970s and 1980s in the USA. That this technology has been commercially adopted worldwide was illustrated in the video by a host of fast ferries of all types operating in Europe and the Pacific Rim.

Jennifer Zeien discussed ferries in the transportation system, pointing out that they do not operate in isolation, but are only one link in the intermodal transportation network. She asserted that demand for fast ferry services ultimately arises from individual choices among competing modes of travel. Zeien then outlined two types of ferry markets: commuter-based and tourist-based services. For the former, she showed a hypothetical service load factor profile. For the latter, she noted that tourist-based ferries must usually carry vehicles as well as passengers, and that marketing is needed and important because the service is not founded on constant use by a single rider pool. The balance of Ms. Zeien’s paper related the differences between commuter-based ferry services and general cargo and the cruise market. She went on to describe a profile of ferry market geography, operating scenarios, and evaluation factors for a proposed ferry service.

To open the morning discussion period, moderator Tom Mackey asked why there are not more AMVs in the USA. He referred to current heavy traffic areas. It was noted that the Maritime Administration (MARAD) had a mandate to influence the utilization of the waterways. The possibility that companies like Federal Express might turn to AMVs to bypass traffic gridlock areas was mentioned. Also it was commented that ferries were simply not generally recognized as logical alternatives by many planning organizations. A high percentage of government dollars go to highway-related projects and a relatively low percentage into ferry projects. There is also a fairly widespread ignorance about the nature and potential of AMVs. However, examples of successful operations supporting the New York airports were cited. There is a general perception that ferries are “slow” compared to trains, etc. Commuter AMVs could serve tourist routes in off hours or off seasons. The 1984 Urban Mass Transportation Authority (UMTA) study is still generally applicable to USA operations.

Further discussion covered the differences between USA and Europe regarding ferry utility. Also, if the demand for faster water transportation is there, it has been demonstrated that people will pay extra for speed. Vallejo CA looked into all aspects of ferry use before buying new ferries, including off-peak, tourist-based uses for the ferries. The possibility for a Baltimore - Annapolis MD ferry was mentioned; although there was one some years ago that went out of business, but a combined passenger - freight ferry might be successful on that route. It was proposed that such a ferry carry passengers during the day but freight at night. A comment was offered that federal money for ferries comes through highway appropriations, but that even if those people are conscientious and honest, they are still quite unaware of fast ferries and what they might offer. In certain specific areas, such as LaGuardia-Manhattan NY, private money has been successful in starting and operating faster ferries.

The need for maintenance, reliability, and backup craft was highlighted, as was passenger perception of safety and comfort. There must be a willingness to use alternatives (to highway transportation) in future planning, but there must be distinct geographical advantages to justify use of AMV ferries. In state-run ferries, there may be negligible incentive to upgrade for higher speed.

There are many ferries in the Seattle WA area, and there is free downtown bus service for ferry passengers. The question was raised whether it is possible to use highway money for passenger-only ferries, in view of ferries as direct substitutes for highways. Is the Lewes DE to Cape May NJ route good for fast ferries? Band Lavis Assoc. did a trade-off study five years ago. This is a tourist route, and tourists don’t tend to be so time-sensitive; they are looking for a good time. There is an absence of Long Island NY to Connecticut fast ferry routes, whereas it would appear that this area would be a good place for them.

Mr. Mentz said that the US Department of Transportation relies mainly on private industry and doesn’t advocate particular alternatives, but DOT is interested in ferries and supportive. MARAD has participated with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) on ferry projects, and can provide Title XI loan guarantees to fund them. For the NEXTEA it was suggested that ferry proponents emphasize traffic congestion mitigation and air quality improvement aspects. ISTEA emphasis is on freight transportation, and 95% of present ISTEA funds go through the MPOs (Metropolitan Planning Organizations), which have latitude to decide how best to invest the money. Some recent ferry projects had gone through the MPOs, and it was remarked that this is how things are supposed to work.

Studies at Grumman years ago are still relevent today. Problems cited included debris in the water, traffic, terminal connections, river ice, etc. The importance of local government support was stressed, and positive examples in New York City, Virginia, and North Carolina were cited. In many areas however, there is strong political resistance.

David Lavis described types of AMV hullforms, gave state-of-the-art examples, reviewed attributes and specific issues associated with each AMV type, cited trends for high performance vessels worldwide, and listed obstacles to fast ferry development. He described the “advanced means of lift,” i.e. means of lift other than buoyancy or planing forces. These are: support by water/air static and dynamic lift, and combinations of same, referred to as hybrid ship forms and illustrated by the Hydrofoil Small Waterplane Area Ship (HYSWAS) and the Surface Effect Ship (SES), an air-cushioned catamaran. He illustrated all of these concepts in a “Lift Pyramid.” He reported trends for high performance vessels worldwide including fast ferry deliveries, speeds of fast ferries as of 1996, and distribution by hull type. Lavis noted the growing sizes, speeds, and technological advances that have helped the AMV industry. He then described the obstacles to fast ferry development, in part, lack of information or understanding of their possibilities, perceived reliability issues, large number of hullform types (difficult to make an informed choice), inflated performance claims by builders, and regulations poorly adapted to fast ferries. Lavis concluded that (1) military needs promoted past advances, but today the commercial sector has the lead; (2) Europe and the Pacific Rim have been quicker to adapt the AMV technology, (3) the USA market can be significant, and (4) a national strategy is needed to generalize AMV use.

Halter Marine, Inc. (HMI) unsuccessfully proposed an E-Cat for Washington State Ferries, but Peter Lenes said that they will soon build a prototype using their own funds. Also, HMI designed the SEAFLIGHT catamaran with funding from MariTech, and they almost succeeded in getting a customer for it. It was based on a semi-SWATH concept for which Stena holds patents. This necessitated licensing and created other difficulties if the project were to proceed.

In further discussion, the use of ferries in Europe was noted, particularly in the Baltic as floating entertainment bases (casinos, bars, orchestras, etc.). Avoiding taxes of the terminal nations was discussed. Tom Mackey suggested that this workshop's sponsoring organizations should develop standards for comparing AMV types, also that we should learn more about their safety and environmental implications. He has heard about large wakes hitting people along the shore.

How is money for fast ferry work raised in Europe? Information from those programs is usually not readily available in the USA. A reply was that government money is still relied on there, but that they also require specific individuals to support them if they are to be successful. Norway sponsored much work in the 1980s. The Australians historically have built many different types and have received abundant government support and money for export-oriented fast ferry construction. However, a person who had worked at SSPA said the Australians now do a lot of CFD (computational fluid dynamics) and model testing. He also noted that some successful European ferries carry both people and freight and stated, “Many people there are looking for fast entertainment as well as fast transportation.” Wake generation in deep water is not a problem, but more work on fast ferry use in shallow water is needed. The use of prediction programs and model tests to resolve shallow water/ wake problems was discussed.

Mr. Lenes was asked about customer response to the HMI portfolio. He said there have been no USA customers for the designs they have licensed from foreign sources and added that it would not make sense to build those designs for other foreign customers due to the license restrictions. As to damage stability of the various AMV types, Mr. Lenes commented that catamarans in general were excellent in this respect because of the greater compartmentation.

A question about wave-piercers and their seakeeping performance and commercial prospects was raised. Someone volunteered the information that the Stena HSS has bilge-keel-like fins at the stern that reduce stern motions. Summing up the discussion period, Mr. Lenes commented that we must “sell to the USA infrastructure” and change the prevailing “car culture” mentality.

Jack Westwood-Booth’s goal was to cover the US Coast Guard (USCG) initiatives related to safety of high speed craft and how the USCG is partnering with industry to facilitate the construction of US-built vessels. He mentioned that the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which adopted the Dynamically Supported Craft (DSC) Code in 1977, recognized the need to revise it, and in 1995 published the High Speed Craft (HSC) Code. The USCG actively helped develop this Code and moved to incorporate it into USA regulations. The USCG wants to bring USA design standards in line with international standards. He concluded that by taking a pro-active approach to safety now, the USCG, in partnership with industry, can provide a strong foundation from which this small, but rapidly growing industry can continue to prosper.

Ralph Patterson, moderator of the afternoon session, led the discussion period. It was noted that SNAME SD-5 had worked with the USCG in reviewing sections of the new AMV code. It was noted that manning and training are definitely addressed in the new Code; it gives far more flexibility to the designer.

William Hockberger showed in his presentation Choosing the Right Ferry that one can follow a systematic process to determine if a particular ferry could be operated profitably in a particular set of circumstances. That process can be applied as many times as necessary to evaluate any number of candidate ferries or sets of circumstances. The process described applies to any type of ferry, not just AMVs. In fact, one reason for carrying out such an analysis is to determine what the ferry’s performance should be.

The ultimate measure of candidate craft’s suitability for a ferry is the profitability it will enable the ferry company to achieve. There are various technical and operational measures (ferry speed, capacity, total number of customers carried, etc.) that are very important, but they are mainly important as inputs to the determination of overall company profitability. The analysis process must be aimed at developing information as to the profitability implications of the many decisions and choices to be made.

A viable ferry operation must have many components besides the ferry itself: routes, terminals, support facilities and personnel, management and administration, customers of various kinds, efficient connections with the existing transportation system, agreements with area governments, etc. Each component must be chosen to be compatible with all the others — a “total system approach” to selection. Also, attaining the highest possible profitability depends on avoiding any constraints that are not absolutely necessary, to permit the widest range of choice among those components.

During the discussion period, an attendee asked if induced demand for ferry services had been considered in the model presented. Hockberger said, “not explicitly, but this is an important consideration. Once a ferry service is begun, it will provide transportation from an area that may previously have been too isolated for people to travel from easily, and it may then become attractive as a place to live or work.” When asked if the process described had been reduced to spreadsheets and calculation procedures, to facilitate application to specific craft in specific situations, Hockberger said, "No, this should be done on a case basis for each specific project. My main objective is to lay out the process framework so that the analysts will be sure to include all of the relevant factors. Often some major parts of the problem are analyzed in detail, but whole pieces are left out, which compromises the results.” An attendee said that computer programming is relatively cheap and that we should develop this program and make it available. He suggested that we should then test the program on historical examples. A comment was, “Ultimately, contracting and cash-flow realities drive any program.” A participant noted that a successful technique of European ferry operators is to move their vessels around as markets vary.

Eugene Miller cited three examples of financing in his presentation:

Mr. Miller gave an example of a loan having an 8 or 15-year term but with the payments amortized on a 25-year term. This reduces the regular payments, which is a benefit to a company getting started, but it leaves a large balloon payment to be made at the end of the term. If the company is doing well at that point, it should have no difficulty getting the loan refinanced.

During the discussion of inhibiting factors, it was noted that the people, such as operators, one believes are most in need of information about fast ferries think there is nothing more they need to know. No ferry operators attended the workshop. The Transportation Research Board (TRB), of the National Research Council and National Academy of Sciences, is where much of the activity in transportation is centered in the USA. Ferry industry people go there to find out what is happening and see other people they need to know and work with. One major shortcoming, however, is that ferry people meet and talk primarily with other ferry people. A better way to spread the word about ferries might be for ferry people to attend non-ferry TRB sessions so as to be on hand when new transportation projects are being discussed that might include opportunities for ferry use.

[The author is indebted to Bill Hockberger and Ken Spaulding who provided their notes on the Workshop.]

 


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