Parcel Courier Service Could Use Winged Boats

"Kaspian Monster"
"Kaspian Monster"

Published Jan 5, 2019 6:38 PM by Harry Valentine

A major sector of the international transportation industry carries small parcels between cities both domestically and internationally, depending on fast delivery involving airlines, trucks and railways. There may be a market niche for winged boats to carry loads of parcels between coastal cities.


The history of transporting small parcels between cities domestically and internationally dates back over centuries. In the modern era, a large segment of the small parcels transportation market requires fast delivery based on coordinated intermodal connections between airlines and trucks. The development of commercial winged boats occurs at a time of increasing online purchasing which is expanding the parcel transportation and delivery sector. There may be a potential market niche for fast maritime-based parcel transportation between distant coastal cities.

Some of the biggest commercial airplanes operate as freight and cargo carriers flying between distant major cities. While big airplanes are viable over extended distances, their viability decreases over short distances. Trucks are viable and competitive over short distances. In some countries, while some fast passenger trains include a section that carries fast parcel freight, railways have lost a major share of the parcel transportation market to airlines and trucks. The need for fast and cost-competitive transportation opens a possible market application for winged boats carrying parcel freight.

Winged Boat Capabilities

Winged boat builders located in South Korea, Singapore and Germany are designing their vehicles to travel at speeds of 100 to 200-km/hour over distances of up to 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles). 

Internationally, many coastal cities are located within that distance of each other, and some of these cities are actually served by coastal airports. While winged boats are being designed to touch down on and lift off from water, take-offs and landings at coastal airports are possible. One South Korean company is focusing on developing a vehicle capable of lifting itself to an elevation of 150 meters (500 feet). 

Winged boats capable of lifting to 150 meters and equipped with landing gear could provide service between coastal airports while carrying the equivalent payload as commercial cargo airplanes. Traveling at half the speed of commercial aircraft can reduce fuel consumption by over 75 percent. Annual fuel costs account for the dominant cost item in commercial airline transportation. Winged boats carrying parcel freight could operate between coastal airport runways or between designated seaplane runways located along the ocean coast, at river estuaries or even along rivers at inland locations far from the sea. 

Higher Performance

The Russian built Caspian Sea Monster (Kaspian Monster) could attain a speed of 300 km/hr (300 mi/hr). Boeing developed the theoretical ‘Pelican’ Type-C ground-effect vehicle that was intended to cover greatly extended distances at speeds of 300 miles per hour while traveling in ground effect mode close to the ocean to reduce fuel consumption. Upon approach to a coastline, it was intended climb to high elevation and fly toward an airport. The Boeing concept might have been a few years ahead of its time, and the growth of the air freight and parcel transportation markets provides an application for the technology.

Super-sized, high-speed versions of the technology would be suitable for extreme long-haul service, occupying a transportation market niche that is between that of container ships and freight aircraft. Traveling at speeds of 400 to 500 km/hour would appreciably reduce energy consumption to some 25 percent that of freight aircraft. A segment of the parcel market may be willing to delay delivery of their freight by a few hours in exchange for savings in transportation cost. Different sizes and speeds of winged boats could fulfill freight transportation requirements between different pairs of coastal cities.

Pilot Duty Cycles

In overnight parcel and freight transportation, there is scope to combine different speed capabilities of different winged boats with the eight to 10 hour duty cycles for commercial pilots. The distance of some overnight routes could allow pilots undertake return trips within their duty cycles while the time-in-transit duration of other long-distance overnight routes would involve one-way travel. On such routes, companies would need to provide daytime accommodation for pilots who would need off-duty rest time prior to returning to service piloting a winged boat laden with revenue cargo to their home-base terminal.  

Asian Market Potential

The Singapore – Hong Kong link represents Asia’s premium air cargo freight route that cargo Boeing 747 aircraft can complete within four hours. Courtesy of rapid unloading and loading of freight containers at airports, crews and aircraft can complete return trips during crew duty cycles. Type-B winged boats with 150-meter elevation capability and designed for 400-km/hour cruising speed could travel between Singapore and Hong Kong within eight hours, incurring lower fuel costs than traditional freight aircraft. Within a year of operation, fuel cost represents the dominant cost of long-distance transportation service operations, savings that could be passed on to customers.

Departure from airport runway at 11:00PM could result in customers receiving delivery by 3:00PM instead of by 10:00AM, with earlier delivery incurring premium transportation costs. Other fast winged boat routes could include Hong Kong - Seoul (Incheon airport), Hong Kong - Osaka (Kansai Airport) and Singapore - Manila. Slower vessels with 250 to 300-km/hour capability could operate Singapore - Bangkok and Hong Kong - Manila links. Operations involving seaplane runways would occur at Taipei, Shanghai, Jakarta, Manila and Bangkok. Return service overnight routes could include Singapore - Jakarta, Hong Kong - Manila, Hong Kong - Taipei and Taipei - Shanghai.

European Market Potential

Despite fast and efficient railway connections, winged boats could provide overnight return service across the Irish Sea, connecting the British cities of Liverpool and Cardiff/Bristol to the Irish cities of Belfast and Dublin. Across the North Sea, winged boats could connect the British cities of London, Hull, Newcastle and Edinburgh to such European cities as Oslo, Hamburg, Antwerp, Rotterdam and Amsterdam. In the Mediterranean region, winged boats could provide service on such links as Palermo - Roma, Palermo - Napoli, Palermo - Genoa, Barcelona - Genoa, Barcelona - Roma/Napoli, Barcelona - Nice and Roma - Nice.

Coastal airports serve Roma, Genoa, Nice, Barcelona and Palermo where intermodal connections to trucks would likely be available, the result of pre-existing air cargo and truck intermodal connections. Other coastal cities would require that winged boats lift off from and touch down on water. 

United States

Many large American coastal cities are located on a bay, river or ocean inlet and the list includes New York City, Norfolk, Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville, Tampa, Houston, San Francisco and San Diego. Using water touch downs and lift offs, winged boats could carry overnight parcel on such links as Houston - Tampa/St Petersburg, New York City - Norfolk, New York City - Charleston, Chesapeake Bay - Charleston/Savannah, Chesapeake Bay - Jacksonville and Chesapeake Bay - Boston. Winged boats would be able to pass under high bridges at New York City, Tampa, Chesapeake Bay and San Francisco. 

Depending on the American Department of Transportation, type-B winged boats with 150-meter (500-foot) elevation capability could provide overnight parcel transportation service between Los Angeles Airport and Oakland International Airport at San Francisco, also operating to and from Boston’s Logan Airport to provide service to and from Bermuda. Operating between American coastal cities, winged boats could offer greater travel speed than trucks while incurring lower operating cost by consuming a fraction of the amount of fuel as cargo aircraft.


There is market application for maritime-based fast transportation service carrying parcel freight between coastal cities where the travel time between them coincides with pilot overnight duty cycles. While delaying parcel delivery for a few hours, the maritime option offers savings in fuel costs and in turn more competitive parcel transportation costs compared to air freight.


The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.