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Versatile Container Vessel

Reduce fuel usage, port restrictions and save time.
  [vote for,

Imagine, for a second, a train entering the port of Las Angeles. It doesn't come by land, but by sea! Hundreds, if not in the thousands, of containers are linked together inside of simple empty boat sections. Now, the math is quite beyond me, but how would one calculate which one is more efficient: (a) A traditional container ship's inefficiency due to required water displacement while moving forward, or (b) the friction loss of hundreds of containerized vessel-sections, in a train-like configuration. The fuel savings is one thing (if it actually saves fuel), but there are other considerations: Port requirements: With the widening of the Panama Canal, super-sized container vessels will become more commonplace and the depth and berthing requirements may simply be too burdensome for many ports that wish to compete for import/export business. With a train of containers, (2 high x 2 wide, or single), ports might easily accommodate. Onloading/Offloading time: Currently, huge cranes and gantries onload and offload each container while workers secure each individual container to the vessel. Imagine a port that had a long canal section meant for long container train vessels. It would allow each container to be accessed within the hour instead of waiting for each container to be taken out individually. Containers could processed quickly as the train moves slowly past unloading equipment that is more assembly (disassembly?) line than anything. Now towering cranes required, and it could be as simple as having a large forklift pierside for loading/unloading.

Downsides would include less-than-desirable seaworthiness, and maritime traffic jams. Imagine not being able to navigate your ship for hours because a sea- train is entering/leaving port, or even traversing open ocean!

twitch, Sep 20 2017


       Today's container ships are growing ever larger as time goes on.   

       Presumably these would grow ever longer, like a game of Snake.   

       Now I'm imagining cargo companies competing to see who can fill the largest fraction of the world's oceans before their ship-trains run into themselves.
Wrongfellow, Sep 21 2017

       I suppose you could do some buoyancy balancing to turn the sea-train into a submersed sea-train. I believe the fuel saved in efficiency would still be worth the extra cost to improve on the seaworthiness at depths of, say, down to 80 ft.
twitch, Sep 21 2017

       I'm picturing buoyant sleepers supporting shining flexible rails out across the Pacific. Californian hippies then follow the sunset on foot, optionally imagining they're Jesus.
pertinax, Sep 22 2017

       Skin drag is going to be much worse in this case.
MechE, Sep 22 2017


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