Speed limit exemption for winged ships

Company president says city's action will help bring fast transportation to SE

Posted: Friday, December 21, 2007

Winged ships are one step closer to serving Juneau travelers after the Juneau Assembly this week adopted an amendment to add "wing in ground effect" sea craft to a list of vehicles exempt from the 5-knot speed limit in Gastineau Channel.

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Linus Romey, president of Pacific Seaflight, said the exemption plays a role in bringing his plan for affordable, fast transportation over water to Southeast Alaska.

The intent of the speed limit is to reduce wake damage to city and harbor facilities, John Stone, Juneau Harbor Master, said. A 4-knot speed limit will remain for all vessels inside harbors, he said.

Wing-in-ground ships, like seaplanes, do not create a wake at operational speeds. Stone said that fact was the basis of Pacific Seaflight's request for the exemption.

The French government recently awarded a $600,000 prize to a company hoping to develop the same style fast ferry service across the English Channel. The Soviet Union built a monster 400-ton wing-in-ground craft missile launcher to roam the Black Sea in the 1980s.

The local version of the vehicle is a twin-engine 12-passenger boat-plane designed to travel on a cushion of air trapped between the water's surface and its 52-foot wingspan at speeds between 55 and 110 mph.

Romey said his craft will operate at appropriate speeds in Gastineau Channel. Coast Guard regulations require winged ships to give way to everything on the water except seaplanes.

Several layers of Coast Guard approval are needed before Romey launches the high-speed passenger ferry service. Pacific Seaflight's Web site lists a sample route with a 50-minute trip between Juneau and Haines at a cost of $60.

Romey expects to begin service by next fall. He said he expects to miss the summer high season.

• Contact Greg Skinner at 523-2258 or greg.skinner@juneauempire.com.

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