FastShip's $35 Million Wake

Remember FastShip? The maritime industry has largely forgotten the failed plan to build four small, expensive ships that would have crossed the Atlantic at speeds fast enough for water-skiing. Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., apparently hasn’t.

For about a decade beginning in the mid-1990s, FastShip received a lot of attention for its ambitious – some said unrealistic – plan to build and operate four 1,432-TEU, $235 million ships that promoters said would skim over 40-knot seas at 40-knot speeds and cross the North Atlantic in less than four days.

Despite numerous financing efforts, FastShip never got off the ground. Still alive, however, is $35 million that Congress designated back in 2004 to help finance construction of the ships at Aker Philadelphia Shipyard.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Specter has inserted a provision in the Senate defense appropriation bill to "reprogram" the still-unspent $35 million into a grant to Aker to help keep the struggling shipyard afloat. The shift still must be approved by a House-Senate conference committee.

Shipyard expert Tim Colton’s feisty blog takes a dim view of the deal and the yard’s future prospects.

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