This is no lumbering cross-channel ferry. This is the Francisco, a wave-piercing catamaran loaded with modified jet engines set to blast commuters across the River Plate at 58 knots, faster than any other ship in the world.
Australia’s Incat shipyard built the 1516 ton-displacement Francisco, named after Pope Francis, on behalf of the Buquebus company, which plans to operate it crossing the 140 miles Rio de la Plata estuary between Buenos Aires, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay.
The ship's hull is crafted from "two slender, aluminium hulls connected by a bridging section with centre bow structure at the forward end." The Incat website states, "Each hull is divided into nine vented, watertight compartments divided by transverse bulkheads. Two compartments in each hull are prepared as fuel tanks with an additional compartment prepared as a long range tank." It is powered by a pair of 59,000 HP GE LM2500 gas turbines, derived from those used aboard 747s to run on liquid natural gas (it uses marine distillate to get the engines started and as an emergency fuel). These power plants run through a 7:1 gearbox that drives two Wartsila LJX 1720 SR waterjets, propelling the ship up to 67 MPH.
“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 Francisco beat out another Incat design to take the record, 1996's 53.8 knot Juan Patricio. It too is part of the Buquebus fleet and is still in service. Water taxis everywhere, take note!
Ext: Kim Clifford
Int: Eric Graudins