End of the voyage for FastShip?
The moribund company is now suing the US Navy
FastShip has been an idea whose time has never come. In September, 2010 I reported that the ultra high-speed service to Europe was still waiting at the dockside for more money to get going. Matters were made worse by congress wanting to shift $35 million in federal money away from the program to a Philadelphia shipyard instead.
The company has decided to go for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. President Roland K. Bullard II says in court papers, "The combination of deal fatigue and the collapse of the global economy in 2008-2009 forced the debtors to abandon their original commercial business plan.” Assets of less than $50,000 are listed against debts of more than $10 million.
When I spoke to Mr. Bullard in 2010, he mentioned the military applications for the vessel design. In the bankruptcy filing he goes further than that, accusing the US Navy of unlawfully taking over the design (presumably for the littoral combat ships) and saying he intends to sue the Navy for patent infringement.
“The debtors believe a strong claim exists against the US government for patent infringement,” the court papers say. FastShip says an administrative claim was filed in 2008 to reach a settlement with the Navy, which rejected the approach two years later.
A route between Philadelphia and Cherbourg, France was originally chosen, with the commercial appeal based on comparable speed of delivery with air freight (the sea voyage being three times faster than traditional ocean freight), but at half the cost.
Du Pont and Campbell Soup heirs are among the backers of the company over the past 20 years.
In the court documents, the company says that in the 10 years to 2008, the company "came close to raising the necessary capital to launch the business plan on three occasions." Originally, $2 billion was needed for four ships and specialized cargo systems to speed up loading and unloading.