Re: Freedom Ship - Most Advanced Freedom Project Yet
Sat, 11 Oct 1997 07:22:31 -0400 (EDT)

I'm no naval architect or marine engineer, but as an admiralty lawyer, I play
one in the courtroom. Seriously, I've qualified a few such folks as expert
witnesses and know many more. Based on this . . .

In a message dated 97-10-10 20:04:57 EDT, James Rogers writes:

> There appears to be an engineering problem with the design, namely the

My first thought when I immediately visited the referenced web site, as well.

> [snip] At some point the stresses will tear the ship apart.
> Very large ships, such as supertankers ( which are much smaller than the
> "Freedom Ship" ), are very fragile and have to be loaded in a manner that
> distributes the mass evenly throughout the ship. A momentary increase in
> mass in one part of the ship can cause the ship to rip itself in half.
> Sailing through rough seas with a less than optimally balanced load will
> the same thing.

Very, very true. See the famous case of the M/V DERBYSHIRE, perhaps one of
the most scientifically investigated ship losses in history. She went down
with all hands apparently instantaneously when her back broke from uneven
forces as James describes, or so the British Board of Admiralty concluded
after ten years of expert inquiry.

> According to the resume on the site, the guy who designed the "Freedom
> Ship" did not have the design of very large water-craft in his engineering
> expertise.

Naval architecture is a REAL specialty in engineering. I wouldn't go aboard
a canoe designed by someone who wasn't well versed in its arcana and
certainly not one designed by someone who wouldn't claim a few other hull
designs to his credit.

> A more feasible design would be to either have a bunch of smaller floating
> objects connected non-rigidly, or to make the structure stacked *a lot*
> shorter (minimize vertical pressure) so that the superstructure will be
> capable of withstanding the buoyant forces. A structure that is both long
> *and* tall simply won't work. Either way, it will be a serious compromise
> to his "ideal" design.

Multiple hulls is definitely the way to go for very large structures,
especially ones that can encounter uneven loads or that must withstand very
heavy weather, although one pays a price in hydrodynamic drag as a result.
See the design of semi-submersible drilling rigs.

Adding to the list of design problems obvious even to the informed layman,
note the wave-catching prow (seemingly designed to MAXIMIZE hydrodynamic
drag) and the extremely low freeboard (the height from the water to the first
open deck). Compare the latter to the design of modern cruise ships, which
have very high freeboards.

Also, the web site says the vessel will be built in the "Gulf of California"
if my memory from last night serves. I'm unaware of any shipyard in that
area that could handle a project of these dimensions. Such facilities are .
.. rare, to say the least.

Moving on from hardware to social software, I thought that the treatment of
legal issues at the website was disturbingly scant. The author acknowledges
that the vessel will have to be flagged, but states that no flag has yet to
be determined. Since "the law of the flag" doctrine will carry significant
legal implications for those who would commit to living and working aboard
such a vessel, I would have thought there would be at least some more
detailed discussion of this issue. Furthermore, I would have expected that
the avowedly laissez-faire attitude of the project would have required some
nod in the direction of privately produced law or its equivalent, but I
searched in vain for any reference to the subject.

All these critical observations aside, on the other hand, I think the basic
idea is one whose time has come. I was recently told by a colleague about a
condominium cruise ship concept similar to this but much smaller in scale
that looks like it WILL happen. BTW, the price of the vessel (similar in
size to a conventional cruise ship) actually being built for that project is
said to be $250 million. The vessel described in the "Freedomship" web site
would cost AT LEAST 4 time that much -- a gigabuck . . .

Greg Burch <>----<>
Attorney ::: Director, Extropy Institute ::: Wilderness Guide -or-
"Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must
be driven into practice with courageous impatience."
-- Admiral Hyman G. Rickover