01 March 2006

The Ship of New Orleans

Well, I do get some very strange ideas!

I often complain about how so many are looking for new ways for the nation to fail, and so few looking for new ways for it to succeed, that I might as well trademark the phrase. But, be that as it may, there are some strange and weird things that are no longer *impossible*, just difficult to engineer and do.

So, how much will it cost to rebuild New Orleans in any meaningful way?

Tens of billions of dollars if not hundreds of billions or more. Lots of money to invest into a *sinking* city. I have written on this before, and will do so again today but this time with a totally different slant on the subject.

What is New Orleans? The official tourist site gives all sorts of things that makes New Orleans different, as does the convention and visitor's bureau. New Orleans is history, culture, music, cuisine, arts, architecture and the French Quarter and Bourbon Street. But beyond that, New Orleans is the people who make the city unique in the world for blending all of these together. I propose that the outlying suburbs of New Orleans are pretty much a loss and will take so much to rebuild that they may be a decade or more in coming back to life in any recognizable form. During which time they will have sunk another couple of inches.

Further, I propose that New Orleans *needs* its people and the nation *needs* a port facility and the city itself needs as much of its heritage preserved as possible.

My proposal is after seeing a piece, I believe from Modern Marvels on the History Channel, on future mega-projects. And one of those, I believe, is tailor made to New Orleans and, indeed, any port city on the planet: Freedom Ship.

From what I remember of the program, a Freedom Ship is to be a good sized town or small city that is on-board a ship. While some may think this a bit preposterous, let us take a look at the economics of it.

First, construction will be done out of mass-produced parts, not custom designed ones. The cost of the vessel drops from astronomical to very do-able with that single step. The entire cost of rebuilding New Orleans and its suburbs, putting in a Category 5 hurricane resistant system to protect it, maintenance of that system and finding some way to refloat the city itself is also astronomical beyond belief. Freedom Ship easily fits under the rebuilding cost estimate, plus you can demolish the neighborhoods, save for historical parts, open the levee system and allow the Mississippi to reflood *around* the city. The core downtown of New Orleans can economically be made hurricane resistant at a very much lower cost than the entire area and it may not *sink* as fast once new material and water re-soak the surrounding environs.

Second, the inner core of the city can host the Freedom Ship construction crew. Building Freedom Ship will be a 24/7 engineering feat and will serve as an attraction for jobs and for the Ship itself once it is completed. I propose that Lake Pontchartrain be considered as the build site. It may need dredging and a new lock system to allow the Freedom Ship out and room to maneuver, but those costs are minor compared to the costs of rebuilding NOLA. Even when bundled in with the cost of the Freedom Ship.

Third, JOBS. Building Freedom Ship will be an almost overnight cure for unemployment in the rural southern states and attract hundreds more skilled workers. Everything from soup to nuts will need to be done on this floating city, and it will consume resources on a scale that has not been seen for a ship before. But it will still be far less than rebuilding a sinking city.

Fourth, New Orleans will have room for approximately 120,000 or so people on-board, if I remember correctly. As this ship has no permanent station, the citizens on-board will only pay taxes in their place of employment. Most services industries will move to the ship itself, while light industry and above will move into the lower Mississippi basin to support this new floating city.

Fifth, once built New Orleans will have an industry that is located *nowhere else* on Earth: Freedom Ship construction. This will make it another tourist destination both to visit the ship and the shipyards and New Orleans.

Sixth, the previous population of New Orleans was approximately 450,000 people. Not all of them will be returning. At 120,000 people a single Freedom Ship would house nearly 25% of New Orleans previous population. Build a *second* ship and nearly 50% of New Orleans' population is now hurricane and all weather proof as the ships can go into the Gulf during storms and be instant recovery centers when they return. No more of this wondering 'where will the help be coming from?'

Seventh, the Freedom Ship would offer residents things that would be impossible just on land. Beyond its own school system, medical system, sports and athletic system, the Freedom Ship will offer an intermingling of lifestyles unknown anywhere else on Earth. In addition on weekends the population can go on a cruise... maybe take a couple of weeks off in the winter or summer and go someplace interesting.

Eighth, the Freedom Ship will be nearly impossible to sink and be extremely difficult to attack with anything short of a jet aircraft of supertanker. Even a fully loaded 747 would only do some damage to a few levels of the vessel. Not unsinkable, but very high on the redundant systems and flotation through excess volume scale.

Ninth, a safe and secure environment for families. With its own police force and built-in monitoring systems, residents get the benefit of a home security system built-in to every residence. Every child can have a tracking device so that it is known where they are at all times. Similarly the disabled will not have to worry about various physical and mental problems and mobility problems as every level is elevator accessible.

Tenth, the US Coast Guard can be stationed right on the ship with their vessels docked to it. Also homeland security, the FBI and other Agencies can have offices there. When the ship goes out of territorial waters, a small State Department consulate would be available for ironing out any diplomatic problems while the other offices were secured and dormant.

New Orleans is its *people*

With the people on board Freedom Ships evacuating the city of New Orleans is as simple as having the ships move out to the Gulf. Crime rates will plummet on such vessels due to the inherent security of the systems and ready availability of city, state and federal forces. And with its own docks, airstrip and helipads, the Freedom Ship can offer access to anything in which those craft can get to.

The wetlands can be restored with this proposal and the neighborhoods demolished safely and securely. And when the time comes that the Port of New Orleans needs to relocate to firmer ground, the ships can move to the new port and make it New Orleans, even if some of the architecture and history are lost. It is the people that make the city.

Let us save New Orleans and let its people float while the city sinks.

Below is the letter I have *tried* to send to the Freedom Ship folks, but their mailbox is *full*!


Just a stray thought after watching the television program on your proposal....

Compare/contrast cost of one Freedom Ship against rebuilding the city and suburbs of New Orleans.

Now, this is not what you originally intended to do... but I can see that the abilities of the Freedom ship over the conventional rebuilding of New Orleans gives the city and surrounding environs something unique in history.

First: Hurricane survivable housing. Take the ship out into the gulf. Simple as that, evacuation done in an hour or so.

Second: Relatively upscale housing and amenities within the confines of the ship itself. As it is only 'tethered' to New Orleans, the ship can offer its own health and medical system that will still be tied to the US, but not to any state regulation. Also the question of taxation is taken care of by *place* of employment, so those working in the city will pay those taxes, while those on ship will only pay such dues and such as are necessary for staffing and such.

Third: Weekends become mini-vacations and the ship's residences would have the ability to tour the Gulf and further on winter vacations.

Fourth: Although a ship, it is not *sinking* like New Orleans is .

Fifth: The most unprotected and in-danger of flooding suburbs can be demolished and new levees built. This land is necessary to help protect the city and to allow for the Mississippi to reflood annually so that land can be built up.

Sixth: Ability to better keep terrorist activities from harming those on-board versus the easy accessibility of New Orleans to such.

Seventh: Freedom Ship could augment the ship yards of New Orleans *and* be a tourist destination for travelers and for Cruise Ships.

eighth: My bet is that the maintenance of Freedom Ship will be far lower than the annual cost of maintenance of the flood control system for the existing city. By removing the need to protect the suburbs the money that was spent on such could be moved over as a stipend to the Freedom Ship.

I will have to think this over, but my guess is that the $20B for a Cat 5 sustainable system for protecting New Orleans is a USACE low-side estimate. Add in maintenance of such a system and I believe that the Freedom Ship could offer something for an overall lower annual cost, even if the upfront cost for the Freedom Ship were somewhat higher.

You may want to look at doing an unsolicited proposal to the US Government, my guess is the US Army Corps of Engineers, but also the Department of Homeland Security and possibly directly to the Congressional Committees for both of those. Also think about the State of Louisiana itself.

Could Lake Pontchartrain be used as a building place? Depth of Lake and required new access to the Gulf would be additional considerations. Could the Lake itself be used as a place for the Freedom Ship? I know you folks have a place already looked at in the Caribbean, but a US site offers ready access and transportation capabilities and infrastructure to get the goods to the build site. Also this would kill unemployment in the rural south for some few years, to say the least.

Especially if TWO Freedom Ships were built for New Orleans. Each holds about... 120,000 people? Call it 250,000 for two with one specialized a bit towards residential. Subtract that off from the original 450,000 residents in NOLA and the city becomes a manageable one... and if it ever goes completely under, the population can move with ease to wherever the new coastal port will be built.

Sorry to take up your time, really love the idea of your ship!


-A Jacksonian

And an addendum of 13 MAR 2006: Watching Modern Marvels on the History Channel last night on the entire work put into the Disney Theme parks made me realize that they have the one skill entirely necessary to this whole endeavour: Large Scale System Integration.

To run such a large set of interconnected parks and keep all the sanitation out of view, these extremely clever and creative people have created one of the most highly integrated system of systems ever devised. Think of it, for a park stretching over a large expanse of territory they have provided an entirely underground set of thoroughfares for their employees. Also, they have a thoroughly integrated trash collection system and run-off system built into the parks. Beyond that they have all of the standard water, sewage, electronics, HVAC and every other nice thing they provide.

Of particular interest, however, was the modularity of their hotels and other buildings. Once the framing is done and basic utilities run entire rooms and buildings are slid into place and then just connected up to the mains. These pre-fab units are the most absolutely perfect solution to the Freedom Ship concept! Whole office sections, residential quarters, shopping areas, plazas and, indeed, everything necessary to make the Ship a comfortable living area can be modularized and sub-contracted out across the world. Working to spec and performance standards the framing of the ship can be made with an internal set of monorails or maglev or linear motor delivery system and each piece slid into place and fastened and secured to the overall structure.

As a bonus the mass transportation system is then just a simple and secured covering over the interior system and trains or other vehicles installed for passenger use. And if some sections need replacing within any of the modular areas, removing the plates and unfastening the piece or pieces in question will allow it to be moved out through the existing system and replaced or upgraded by new modular pieces!

Secured and fitted modular pieces can then be *customized* to specific needs or adorned as people living within them see fit. But if it would be cheaper to build something, say an entirely new food store, outside the ship, then the process of removing the old and fitting in the new is something that can be done in a day or two instead of weeks. Pre-fab, slide and move as needed. And depending upon the level of modularity and standardization of size, people could swap entire living quarters through this system while the ship is under way!

And as for the artistic side... the Disney engineers and construction people are *used* to working with them already. Take in artists and artisans that currently live or have lived in NOLA and surrounding environs, along with some specialized Disney artists, and the entire vessel can have the look and feel of NOLA as it will reflect the cultural heritage of those that hold it dear. And some entire structures from the old city that may be lost can be taken up whole and complete and made part of the structure of the ship itself.

The very large scale integration concept my drop the cost of the entire endeavour by 10 or 20% or more just on its own. An integrated trash collection system with sorting and and high temp incineration will be a total blessing to the entire population. Street sweepers, be they automated or human, just sweep to the trash traps built into the structure.

Not only is this entire concept feasible, but I would suggest the entire cost is not even *larger* than the proposals to rebuild and upgrade and mainatin a *sinking* city. And by the third vessel, after the first two go to New Orleans, my bet is the Disney folks will want to make the largest floating Theme City on the planet. The mobile attraction slowly circumnavigating the Globe to bring Disney to everyone.

Hey, I didn't say there was no *downside* to this....


Mad Fiddler said...

Dear Jacksonian (maybe I can shorten that to "ian")

You may already be familiar with the volume "Oath of Fealty" by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, which examines a lot of the issues that arise in living and administering a massive "archology." The conspicuous difference in conception is that their city is solidly land-locked.

I suspect you're glossing over some of the vulnerabilities of a floating city, though.

Your city will need to be guarded from barnacles, and UDT divers with Limpet Mines, or submarines, or trained molluscs or some such.

Otherwise, I like it.

Sounds like a permanent Norwegian Princess Cruise.

Book Data:
ISBN: 0671226959
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: 1981
Binding: Hardcover

A Jacksonian said...

Mad Fiddler - Most go for AJ... works as well as anything.

I am familiar with Oath of Fealty and other large structure views...

The lovely thing about the Freedom Ship concept is its modular sectioning: by keeping things sectioned off, even a substantial impact, say that of a nuclear aircraft carrier ramming it at full speed, less than 5% of its overall integrity is compromised and that along a relatively small section of the craft itself. Only those directly hit modules are concerned and the rest of the modules can pump out ballast for overall stability.

Hull cleaning is a concern, depending on water type and what lives there, but is a relatively stable source of employment for the community. With the reduction in need for things like street cleaning for a community this size, that job shift to a dull one section by section cleaning (where things like electrolysis can't address biologicals).

Again, for terrorist attack it can't be just *one* mine or even two or three, unless you are talking something in the few thousand pound equivalents of TNT. Also, direct attack systems using forced water jets would only hit one relatively self-contained compartment. By not being mono-hull but a sectional piece structure with flexibility built in, the overall system requires a large number of attacks for breaches along a continuous area that also stretches deep into the structure: getting one, five, ten or even fifty or so individual hits doesn't do much to the structure's overall integrity. Even a 747 crashing at full speed only harms upper compartments and would not even get to the waterline.

It is hard to move from our current notions of what a ship *is* to something different, and yet the large km sized modular barge used in Japan for the New Osaka Airport is the concept. An active airport on a 500 or so hectare barge is not something you can do in a single piece for waterborn stability. A modular Freedom Ship builds up and down from that adding buoyancy under it while adding additional community space above. New Osaka Airport is, actually, far more vulnerable having less mass and less depth of compartments. A system like this is very large scale integration requiring forethought and engineering, and costing upwards of $70 billion... it is not called a 'megaproject' for nothing.