This project has been shared by a major number of European companies and financed by the EU Commission. The acronym means “Partial Air Cushion Supported Catamaran” which is a model-tested water craft which should allow to increasing the speed on inland waterways without producing too high waves. The ISL has been responsible for the economic part of the study, i.e. for the calculation of the building and operation costs and potential earnings.
A higher speed would be attractive as long as it is below 40 km/hour, because above this limit regulations for fast ships would have to be met. An increase by the factor 2 to 3 would easily be possible. The increased speed requires the hull form of a catamaran which has less deadweight capacity because the draft cannot be increased on shallow inland waterways. A reduced deadweight capacity means relatively lightweight cargo like containers or vehicles. Such cargo is available and would welcome higher transport speeds.
While the technical feasibility of the project was confirmed in general, many details remained to be proven. All man-made canals have size and speed limitations which mean that a PACSCAT could only operate on the rivers Rhine and Danube in Europe. In practice the speed not only depends on general limits but also on endangering ships with low freeboard and ships moored at quays or jetties. The issue of transport time is not always important: does a container coming from Far East really have to save one day in hinterland transport? Finally the costs determine the financial feasibility. A PACSCAT requires several times the engine power of a normal container barge which causes critically high costs against the backdrop of steadily rising bunker costs.