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[Opinion] The WIG Ship

Posted January. 31, 2005 23:14,   


In 1976, a Western spy satellite spotted a “strange object” moving just above the sea surface at the speed of more than 500km/h in the Caspian Sea. At that time, it was neither recognized as a ship nor an aircraft. A ship cannot run that fast, and an aircraft does not fly that low. Military experts named the object “The Caspian Sea Monster” and became busy trying to identify it.

The name of the object unveiled later was “WIG ship (wing-in-ground effect ship)”. It was a new kind of transportation that the former Soviet Union developed for military purposes from the 1960s. A WIG ship basically functions based on the principle of “ground effect,” meaning lift force to the ship body that gets bigger when its wings approach the sea surface. Therefore, a WIG ship can run very fast unlike normal ships, and also transport massive cargos and people for less than half of the airfare. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) classifies it as a ship, but it can be seen as a combination of the advantages of ships and aircraft.

It was in the 1993 Korea-Russia science technology exchange project that the concept of a WIG ship was first introduced to Korea. However, design technology for a WIG ship adopted at that time was limited to a WIG ship which operates on the surface of sea with low waves like lakes and rivers. The Korea Ocean Research and Development Institute, which has continued research in the field, now seems confident in developing technology to overcome the limitation. That was evident in the fact that a WIG ship project is included in the recently released list of 10 major national R&D projects which are to be put into practical use.

If the country successfully puts a WIG ship into practical use by investing 120 billion won over five years, as the government announced, that would bring about a drastic change in the northeast Asian maritime logistics system. If that happens, the country could expect to be the “logistics hub” of northeast Asia, if not the “economic hub.” Once the government decided to support the project at the national level, hopes are that it would enthusiastically support the project. As people say, “A genius supports 100,000 people,” now is an era in which a single state-of-the-art technology decides the future of a country.

Song Moon-hong, Editorial writer, songmh@donga.com