Tourists heading for the resort islands of Sanya, may soon have a faster, more luxurious way of travel, as "flying" ships came onto the radar on Thursday.
Xiangzhou 1 is "sea skimmer" or ground effect vehicle (GEV). Equipped with wings and a propeller similar to those of planes, at a stable speed around 160 km per hour (85 knots), the 12 meter, 2.5 tonne vessel "flew" about two meters above the level of the sea in tests off Sanya.
Made by a subsidiary of China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, China's foremost shipbuilder, and licensed by the China Classification Society, Xiangzhou 1 can fly up to 50 meters above the water at a maximum speed of 210 km per hour. With a range of 400 kilometers, it is the fastest GEV in China.
Xiangzhou 1 is China's first GEV for commercial use, but the country has manufactured more than 10 such ships since 1967, mainly for inland waterways. GEVs are faster than boats and cheaper than actual flight. Container ships typically proceed at about 30 km per hour, warships about double that.
The "ground effect" is extra lift generated by airfoils moving close to a solid surface and allows the ship to literally sail above the water or any other fixed surface.
Apart from speed, GEVs are virtually immune to waves and are highly maneuverable, making them ideal for multiple purposes including rescue work, transportation and entertainment.
Senior managers are enthusiastic that "Xiangzhou 1" represents the vanguard of GEV technology and will have numerous civilian and business applications.